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Set Up Your Financial Aid Office for Success in 2015-16

Financial aid directors, take note: before the time to plan for the 2015-16 award year has passed, we have advice to make sure 2015-16 is your department’s best year yet. No doubt you learned from your mistakes in 2014-15 and are ready to implement changes to remedy those issues. Don’t worry, there’s no need to upend your entire department; just consider the following suggestions.

Shoot for Paperless

The modern age makes it easier than ever before to go paperless, yet many offices haven’t taken the plunge. While you might be attached to your old way of doing things and afraid of switching things up, a paperless office has myriad advantages. There’s a reduced chance that important documents will get lost, for instance. And file sharing becomes much easier when you can just hand out digital copies of a document rather than passing it around or Xeroxing it. Oh, and Mother Earth will thank you.

Go Mobile

This is the Internet age, and students expect their information transmitted to them quickly, easily and digitally. When it isn’t, you run the risk of unintentionally depriving them of information. Besides, going mobile when sending out award letters, for instance, allows you to link to handy sites and services that help students plan their finances and borrow less. Your students may be from across the country, but there is one place you can find all of them: on their smartphones.

Streamline Applications

Students dislike long, signature-filled tasks which can’t be checked off a to-do list in an afternoon. Help them get things done quickly with products like StudentVerification, which allows financial aid offices to send kids notices for documents they still need, enables students to upload those files securely, and automate the overall verification processes. StudentVerification gives students anytime access to complete the verification process, turning your office into a 24/7 hub of effectiveness.

Go Tech Crazy

Okay, so not crazy, exactly. But you certainly shouldn’t shy away from adding helpful new technologies to your office mix. Entrepreneur suggests VoIP systems that integrate your cell and office phone technologies with Internet, mining your data to see how you can improve, and getting a server to make file backups easier.

Work That Website

A surprising number of financial aid offices still have websites that look like dinosaurs created them. Investing the time and money to overhaul your website could be worth it if your students currently can’t find the information they need. Offering step-by-step guides and straightforward resources reduces the number of students who call or walk in needing help. Plus, when kids have all the details at their fingertips, they’re much more likely to follow through with their applications, receive award money and get their education … which is, after all, your raison d’etre, right?