Tightrope Walker

Make PPY More Manageable: Assess The Risks

Amy GlynnBy Amy Glynn

Over the last few weeks, we’ve done a fair bit of talking about change management. Proactive management of change—rather than being managed by the changes—is important to the implementation of prior-prior year (PPY) in your Financial Aid office. An essential part of preparing for any change is undertaking a risk assessment—have you sat down to think through the potential risks related to PPY? If yes, awesome. If not, don’t worry, we’re here with some suggestions.

What is risk assessment?

Risk assessment is used to make sure that you are aware of events or outcomes that you have uncertainty about, and provides a framework to begin to address them.  SixSigma notes that it’s easy for people to “become so focused on the processes being improved that they lose sight of what is around them.” A risk assessment can help you “be careful not to adversely affect any downstream operations or to miss out on opportunities to apply improvements.”

Risks associated with PPY

Here’s an example of a PPY risk: When asked about moving up the availability of information key to packaging Federal aid, ED has let us know it will “Probably not. Like the issuance of the Pell Grant schedules, release of campus-based allocations is contingent on Congressional action.” A risk assessment asks you to take this knowledge a few steps further by writing down how this risk may impact you, and what your action items should be.

I tend to fall on the side of keeping things simple, especially in the beginning. With PPY, so many of the items that are hanging out there as ‘unknowns’ are things you can—and should—start to address in your risk assessment.

Risk assessment tools

There are many tools available to help you perform a risk evaluation. It’s up to you to determine the one that suits your style best. Some standard options include:

SWOT analysis

  • A structured planning method used for evaluation
  • Focuses on Strengths, Weakness, Opportunities, and Threats
  • Debate continues on who created the SWOT: Albert S Humphrey, Harvard, and MIT are often credited
  • Free SWOT Analysis template available here

ICOR analysis

  • A structured planning method used for evaluation
  • Focuses on Improvements, Challenges, Opportunities, Risks
  • Created by SixSigma
  • Free ICOR Analysis example available here

However, you can also use a simple Excel spreadsheet to help you manage things, making this as complex or a simple as you want.  The key is to start to identify anything that you are uncertain or uncomfortable with early on.  We’ve put together a simple Excel sheet to help you document risk-related items ranging from deadlines, workload increase, packaging and more.

Download the FinAid PPY Implementation Risk Assessment Sample >