If the financial aid and admissions departments refuse to share resources, support each other’s job duties and work together toward a common purpose, the college’s goal of serving students becomes difficult to accomplish. When it comes to serving the best interest of the students and making their transition to college seamless, collaboration and cooperation between admissions and financial aid is paramount. Here are some tips for aligning the two departments:
Lead by example.
Financial aid directors and VPs must show respect for their colleagues in admission and vice versa. Avoid creating an “us vs. them” mentality. Be the first to open up communication with the other office when an issue arises, rather than keeping the problem on your department’s “island” and complaining or being resentful of the other office.
Foster mutual respect.
Discord crops up when financial aid and admissions offices do not respect the contributions each department makes to the institution. While each office serves a different function, they are interconnected in that one cannot exist without the other. During training meetings, discuss some of the responsibilities of both offices and outline how these responsibilities are connected with regard to providing exceptional service to the students. If the admin of both offices understand how their actions affect the other, they can make decisions that could positively impact both departments. Furthermore, they will have insight into how the other department’s officers can make their lives easier (or harder) and will be more likely to cooperate.
Cross train the teams.
The old saying “two heads is better than one” applies here. Each department staff can look at the other department’s issues with an outsider’s perspective; sometimes this allows for the kind of creative solution that those who are closest to the problem can’t see. Both departments have tactics and procedures that work well for them. Share those solutions to improve both departments’ efficiency. Furthermore, take each team through a brief tutorial of the other team’s operations and frequently asked questions. The shared knowledge will result in a better qualified staff and an improved student experience. Avoid being the school whose employees say, “I don’t know, you’ll have to check with the other office on that.”
Highlight how everyone benefits from additional resources.
Colleges distribute resources based on whatever budgets they have to work with in a given year. This can sometimes leave departments feeling like they have to hoard or compete for resources. Take the time to highlight to the admissions and financial aid staff how extra resources in one department can benefit the other. This will broaden their perspectives and make them less likely to get scrappy when they feel like their resources are being threatened.
Share success with everyone.
When the school reaches enrollment goals, it is not just the admissions office that made it happen. While admissions certainly plays an integral role in off-the-chart enrollment numbers, the financial aid department did their part to ensure the students who enrolled could afford to stay. If there are celebrations, awards and high-fives being handed out for reaching enrollment goals, make sure both departments are recognized for their unique contributions.
Remember, the ultimate goal of both the admissions and financial aid office is to serve the students. If the departments do not collaborate, students won’t get the holistic service they deserve. In addition, students who could have benefited educationally from the institution may either be overlooked or choose to attend college elsewhere because documents and other items were not expedited in an organized manner.