Director of Financial Aid Greg Ryan shares his PPY plan
They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. We’re not suggesting you duplicate Fullerton College’s approach to planning / implementation for Prior-Prior Year, but we are suggesting you should check out how they’re gearing up for the implementation as it may bring you insights and new ideas. Greg Ryan, Director of Financial Aid at Fullerton College, has been in planning mode for some time. I sat down with him to get his insights.
Amy: What have you done to prepare for PPY implementation internally?
Greg: First, all staff have been trained on the upcoming changes. I’ve also briefed leadership staff at the campus and other managers on the upcoming changes. To move up the processing of intakes, internally we had to move up our release implementation dates from winter to fall. We tackled this via our workgroup comprised of Fullerton, Cypress, District Information Services, and staff from finance. I keep up with all of the releases from Ellucian and I made sure prior-prior-year (PPY) implementation was on our workgroup’s agenda as soon as it was announced in September/October of 2015. Ellucian is moving the winter release up to a fall release. District Information Services is in charge of installing our updates/releases for Banner®, but there was a lot of cross-coordinating that had to happen to get it right—updating our Policies and Procedures documentation, making sure our software does what it needs to do, confirming Ellucian had the changes in place
We’ve also booked our consultants, Strata Information Group (SIG), for the 17/18 academic year. Our District and FA Office staff works closely with SIG, an IT consultant for higher education. SIG comes out once a year just for the general setup, and we need to make sure they can get everything installed. This year only, thanks to PPY, we’ll have two years in one calendar year for set up. To ensure we’re ready, we’re having the consultant come back in December so we can start doing intakes in January.
Amy: What have you done to educate students?
Greg: We really focused on an integrated approach to awareness, using all channels we could think of. Our goal is always to be very specific in the information we share. Things change often in financial aid, and students can be inundated with information.
We hosted a week-long financial aid awareness event in April where we discussed all the upcoming changes—discussion of PPY was included. There was an event in the Quad, which is where all students tend to hang out. And on Friday we held our Transfer Awareness Day, which was a good time to add PPY to the discussion. You really have to optimize every opportunity, especially in March and April because this is a tough time to get students’ attention.
Traditional communication pieces such as posters and postcards were created to highlight the changes, and were distributed around campus in relevant spaces. We also included an article on PPY in our Spring 2016 Financial Aid Newsletter. The newsletter is an outreach vehicle for connecting with staff and students, both current and prospective.
Our FinAid office also uses social media to generate awareness. We know that our students are on it, so it only makes sense to leverage that channel. We’ve been timing relevant messages to students on Twitter and Facebook, again making sure to be specific in the information we are providing.
Amy: What concerns do you have about the transition to PPY?
Greg: None. I am pretty comfortable. We are expecting there will be an increase in Professional Judgments (PJ), but with the CampusLogic resources we have implemented, I know Fullerton will be fine. Prior to CampusLogic we had a 6 to 8-week turnaround time on PJs. With CampusLogic, this turnaround time is now almost next-day.
Amy: That’s great! We appreciate the shout-out. What concerns do you think schools who are not using CampusLogic resources might be encountering?
Greg: Well, we’ve heard that the Federal Government is talking about raising tolerance levels in terms of PJ reviews. The thought is that if they don’t see an increase in PJs from an institution that the Feds may look at you more closely to determine why there hasn’t been an increase. I’d imagine that’s a bit scary for FA offices that still do everything on paper. Many paper-based FA offices are likely already struggling to keep up with all of the work—add PPY and an influx of PJs in and they may feel like they’re underwater. For Fullerton, the PJ module in Student Forms from CampusLogic will make everything easier if there is an increase in special conditions requests due to income changes.
Amy: Do you have any concerns around increased call volume due to PPY?
Greg: I think it’s more about reminding my staff about the process. Previously, staff members would work to make sure a PJ request/application was as complete as possible before they put it on to me. Now, the front counter staff will refer a student to a technician, who will help them. Then they’ll add the request to SV.
Amy: Are you concerned about how establishing tuition may complicate PPY planning?
Greg: No, mainly because our tuition—while not not locked in in advance—is pretty stable.
Amy: Are you planning on adjusting when you start packaging?
Greg: We have our Banner update planned for installation in December with the goal to start packaging and doing intakes in January of 2017. Right now, I don’t plan to start awarding anyone until March 2017. I appreciate that some schools may decide to wait for the Pell information to come out, so they only have to package once. I don’t think it’s a problem for me to award it and then repackage if/when the Pell info comes out. This is a topic we are currently discussing in our workgroup meetings.
Amy: What advice would you give to an institution reading this who is thinking, ‘I don’t even know which piece of PPY to start with.’
Greg: I’d suggest looping in with your Student Services managers’ meeting, and other campus and district leadership team meetings so they know, in layman’s terms, what’s going on—what PPY is, why it’s important. Remember that other offices on your campus may also be doing outreach and they may state general timelines, not knowing that things are changing due to PPY. You need to be sure they have the right information. The second priority is communication and awareness. Then focus on your technology, and your automation for timelines.
Amy: Any last thoughts on PPY as a priority?
Greg: Higher ed institutions need to focus on this, and we need to get it right—because this can be a differentiator for a school. Think about it… if students are choosing between institutions and one of them packages quickly and efficiently, and the other doesn’t, where do you think they are likely to go?
Download an overview of Fullerton’s PPY Implementation tactics