Financial aid directors must possess a plethora of competencies. One of the most important is the ability to collect, interpret and analyze data.
Data collections and evaluation metrics are crucial to improving processes and driving financial aid policy development and improvement for two main reasons:
One, though change is a constant in the financial aid office, having an idea of what works and what doesn’t work – and the data to back it up – equips financial aid directors to define the best policies that support department and institution goals, specifically for enrollment. Two, directors may also use financial aid metrics to determine and measure problems students or staff are facing before, during and after the financial aid award process. Only once the sticking points or difficulties are discovered, they can be solved.
There are countless metrics financial aid directors could measure. We picked 11 of the most important to explore for you.
Check It, Metric
1. Aid expenditures by type: state/federal grants, institutional scholarships/grants, loans, federal work study (FWS), etc. Typically produced in an annual report, these figures are important for monitoring changes in funding sources over time.
2. Number of undergraduates with unmet need, and average amount of unmet need (segmented by resident and non-resident tuition payers for state-supported institutions). This helps school officials determine accessibility of an institution.
3. How students are covering unmet need (for students whose aid doesn’t cover direct costs), such as payment plans, private loans, etc. This helps financial aid officers make educated recommendations, as well as brainstorm alternate funding options with students.
4. Profile of students (segmented by undergraduate, graduate and professional, if applicable) noting the following: whether those students were eligible for merit vs. need-based aid, students’ need levels versus costs, etc.
5. The number of students employed on campus in Federal Work-study Programs, their average earnings by semester and number of hours worked per week.
6. Admits, enrollees and yield rates (number of accepted students who have placed deposits) for freshmen and transfers. Then, organize them by need level, quality and amount of grant. Analyze these reports to determine effectiveness of awarding strategies.
7. The average net tuition revenue (NTR) generated by enrollees and segmented by freshmen, transfers and total undergraduate. Directors may choose to get more precise by separating new student data by factors such as quality, geography, ethnicity, gender and need groups. The various segmentations suggested would be useful in monitoring trends among specific populations as well as to inform inter-department debates regarding enrollment goals.
8. Freshman cohort profiles of students who stay vs. those who leave the school. Retention analysis may reveal student characteristics related to attrition. The analysis should include financial-aid-related information as well as academic data, in order to increase the institution’s understanding of the role of financial aid in student retention.
9. Default rates on both Perkins and Stafford loans. Of course, schools strive to lower default rates. As the saying goes, you must know where you are to know where you’re going. Comparing these year over year helps schools evaluate what policies and procedures are working to reduce default rates. Or you can just email firstname.lastname@example.org to request our default prevention guide: The Roadmap to Reducing Your School’s Default Rates.
10. Debt levels of graduating seniors. Measuring this against direct costs and indirect costs is one way to determine if school materials (such as award letters) are guiding students to borrow more money than they need.
11. Percentage of graduates who are employed post-graduation. This helps schools calculate effectiveness of individual programs and also guides default assessment.
Have we missed any important metrics? What metrics do you make a point of measuring? Share your opinions in the comments below.