(Or: Why Our Nemesis Is Friction and Our Vision Is the EdTech Version of 24 Hours of Le Mans)
As the father of four boys under the age of 14, I’ve become an expert at building Pinewood Derby cars. I’ve built 10 so far. For the uninitiated, Pinewood is a Cub Scout competition in which each father-son team is given a standard block of wood and wheels to build a car to race. The secret to Derby success? Friction.
To go fast, you have to treat friction as your nemesis. You have to destroy friction. (Seriously. Obliterate it.) I have literally spent hours polishing plastic wheels and metal axles. Yes, I have researched the best way to apply graphite powder for optimum speed.
Obliterate friction. Go fast. Win Pinewood Derby. Bask in adulation. (Ok, maybe that last one isn’t true.)
Reduce Friction, Go Faster
Almost six years ago (about as long as I’ve been building Pinewood Derby Cars), CampusLogic set out to solve a very different friction problem. Students experience too much friction on their journey from college search to graduation, due to the financial aid process. This friction leads to frustration for students and high costs for higher education institutions.
Financial Aid friction points in need of polishing:
- One-size-fits-all FinAid experience
- Manual processes involving lots of paperwork
- Confusing FinAid lexicon
- Lack of mobile options
- Inflexible student information systems (SIS)
The CampusLogic Platform set out to reduce friction across the student journey by focusing on the student experience. By making financial aid simple, mobile, and personalized we knew that students would be able to navigate the financial aid journey faster, more efficiently, and with less friction. Less friction means that more students can access aid—and the education it pays for. Less friction means students make more informed decisions that reduce borrowing, lowering student debt. Less friction means the cost of administration for an institution drops because processes are streamlined and students can navigate the journey with less burden on staff.
This streamlined financial aid journey is the bridge to enrollment nirvana. Whether the institution is driving toward increased overall enrollment, optimized yield, or improved retention, a student’s financial aid plan is key to strategic enrollment goals.
The #Awesome History of Our Student Engagement Platform
I joined CampusLogic in 2014. Back then we had, in essence, one commercial product—StudentVerificationSM. With four great customers, StudentVerification was just warming up, solving one of the toughest engagement challenges FinAid offices have: Getting students to complete the verification process. I knew we were at the start of a much longer race, one requiring endurance and efficiency. We were moving from a sprint race to EdTech’s version of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Our new racecar was built with endurance and efficiency in mind—to go the distance; to run seamlessly (and yes, frictionlessly) across the student journey. We envisioned a platform sitting outside of an institution’s SIS. Most SIS’s suck at student engagement, but that’s not really its fault. The SIS is built for back office processing, catering to the experience of administrative power users. I spent 13 years building, implementing, and customizing the SIS in multiple environments—meaning I know of what I speak. Our platform focuses on the student experience, which in turn makes every SIS better.
What’s Our Student Engagement Platform Made Of?
With the ultimate student experience in mind, here is what we have delivered as part of the platform:
StudentVerificationSM (launched in 2014)
Eliminates paper from the verification process and provides students a personalized experience that guides them through verification—capturing complete and accurate information the first time. Financial aid completion rates go up, driving enrollment while reducing the number of students coming to the FA Office with easy-to-solve questions.
StudentFormsSM and AwardLetterSM (launched in 2015)
StudentForms is our expanded, rebranded, supercharged version of StudentVerification. We brought the same guided and paperless process tools to any appeal or financial aid process that requires information to be collected from the student. That means no more paper, no more creating and maintaining PDF forms each year, and no more document indexing.
AwardLetter makes communicating award letters and other awarding information a digital, immersive experience. Dynamic content offers greater personalization, reaching students where they are—on any device. AwardLetter drives enrollment by reaching students before paper letters can get there. Our dynamic content and decision-making tools help students and parents make decisions that lead to reduced borrowing.
CampusMetricsSM (launched in 2016)
The ONLY data visualization tool tailored to the Financial Aid Office, CampusMetrics turns the mountain of financial aid data available into a powerful strategic planning tool. Understand your applicant pool better. Know who is opening your award letters—and how much time they’re spending on the content; what they are clicking on. Drive improvements in the student experience by using out-of-the-box process analytics with benchmarks against other institutions. Get intelligence and value immediately with predefined visualizations and insights within five minutes of activation.
Cegment Net Price Calculator (NPC) and Award Letter Assets (acquired in 2017)
We acquired the Cegment Net Price Calculator to extend the power of the CampusLogic student engagement platform. We now personalize the student financial aid journey from college search through graduation. The market leader in cost and affordability calculators, our NPC moves beyond compliance, allowing institutions to use transparency to initiate engagement with prospective students early in the process.
Cegment’s experience in producing highly personalized and dynamic media is being incorporated into CampusLogic’s AwardLetter product offering, too, creating the market leader in award letter and financial planning communication. Thanks to our platform, colleges and universities can generate award letters, personal enrollment plans, loan letters, and shopping sheets—complete with engaging design and supporting analytics.
ScholarshipUniverseSM (to launch in late 2017)
Developed in partnership with The University of Arizona, ScholarshipUniverse drives student engagement across the entire scholarship lifecycle. The product matches students to scholarship opportunities using artificial intelligence—and streamlines the application, evaluation, and awarding processes—reducing student borrowing and driving utilization of donor funds.
Higher Education Software: Fresh. Original. Different.
We focused on doing things differently, creating a new category in the process. And it’s a category resonating across higher education. From just four customers in 2014, we’ve grown to a customer base in excess of 400 who have embraced a student engagement platform that removes friction from the student experience. Our platform allows for a unified experience across the student journey, driven by one login and the aggregation of data for greater insight into the student’s engagement through financial aid than previously available.
Based on what I’ve shared above, it should be apparent that—along with our laser focus on our unique vision—we don’t mess around with execution. What’s next for us? I can’t give away the whole plan, but here are our immediate priorities:
- Integrate NPC data with CampusMetrics to provide pre-applicant insights
- Launch ScholarshipUniverse integrated with CampusMetrics to reinvent the scholarship process
- Expand our CL Connect integration tool to provide a single point of platform integration
- Integrate ScholarshipUniverse and NPC to allow students to compare scholarship eligibility as part of the cost and value calculation when choosing an institution
Reduce friction. Go faster. Keep polishing. Apply more graphite powder.
About the Author
CampusLogic's Chief Operating Officer - Specializing in product management, project management, and business process design throughout his 20-year career, Chris is an expert in managing change. It’s a leadership characteristic that serves him well at CampusLogic where his team is transforming traditional Financial Aid processes.More Content by Chris Chumley