“Students were spending time in line at our offices—on the phone and in person—to ask very basic questions about their financial aid award letters,” explained Ben Burton, Chief Financial Officer at the Ivy Tech Community College System. “My staff was spending a lot of time creating award letters, but students were struggling to understand what they meant.” Sending upwards of 20,000 paper award letters a year, Burton needed a better solution. One that would bring Ivy Tech’s communications to life for students, while simultaneously standardizing and driving efficiency across his 19 campuses. “We turned to CampusLogic’s AwardLetter to drive consistent communications—and the results have been amazing for staff and students.”
Hurdle: Consistency and Efficiency at Scale
The largest community college system in the state, Ivy Tech serves more than 170,000 students—75% of them receive financial aid. Driving a consistent student experience was key for Burton, but with 55+ financial aid employees spread across the state it was a challenge. “Students don’t care that your offices are spread out, or that multiple people might help them on the phone or via email. They care about getting great customer service however they contact us,” Burton explained. “We might have the tightest, best process at one campus, but if we have one lone clerk who is doing things differently, it can be problematic.”
Paper Award Letters: An Inefficient Dead-End Experience
Prior to CampusLogic, Ivy Tech’s fulfillment center sent paper award letters to new students over the course of an award year. “Our communications were printed, snail-mailed, and text-heavy,” Burton said. They also addressed only one critical moment during the student finance journey. Award letter notifications to returning students, along with award change notifications, were sent as electronic plain text emails, linking back to Ivy Tech’s student portal MyIvy. “Navigating through MyIvy to get award letter information took a lot of clicks,” said Burton. “It wasn’t intuitive, or personalized.”
The Solution: AwardLetter by CampusLogic
In 2017, Burton discovered AwardLetter by CampusLogic. Mobile and interactive, AwardLetter empowers more effective financial aid communications across the student lifecycle: award letters, debt letters, and more. A personalized, mobile communications hub for students, AwardLetter meets students where they are: on the go, on any device, with personalized, dynamic content.
Ivy Tech: Empowering Students Through Mobile
Both new and returning students receive a consistent experience thanks to Ivy Tech’s branded, mobile-friendly award letters. Students are able to dig deeper into the content on their own, 24/7, thanks to links and hover copy, embedded video, and clear next steps.
A huge plus for students: they can enroll right from their award letter now—something Burton is sure makes his enrollment colleagues happy. “We put an ‘enroll now’ link right on our award letters,” he explains. “If a student is happy with the award, they can immediately accept. You can’t do that with paper.”
Staff Results: Improved Efficiency, Reduced Costs
Today, Ivy Tech delivers award letters via CampusLogic’s technology at a fraction of the time and effort. Integrated fully with Banner, a nightly process triggers award letter notification emails to new students, freeing up Burton’s staff for high-impact activities like counseling. Previously, Ivy Tech conducted call campaigns to students to let them know an award letter with confidential information was in the mail. They don’t have to do that anymore, because everything is digital. “Our staff barely had time to get things done before,” Burton said. “Now, with the saved time, they’re more efficient and easily channel their extra time in other efforts like outreach and counseling.”
Staff also have a new world of data at their fingertips. “We have a 23% open rate for our award letters, and we know that a student is spending on-average five minutes with the content,” Burton shares. “Data showing that they are engaging with the content helps us improve—and we’re getting far fewer of those simple questions from students.”
Next Steps: Next-Level Personalization
“When we sent award letters by paper, we weren’t able to include each student’s satisfactory academic progress status,” Burton said. “Now, because it’s digital, we’re able to do that and be highly personalized.” Burton’s team is also using AwardLetter to deliver additional communications across the student journey. Along with their mobile-friendly award letter, they’ve launched a missing information letter, a dual enrollment letter, and a standards of progress letter—all based on data from the student’s record in Banner.
“Personalizing things, making them mobile, video-based, and easy to understand—that’s what students want,” says Burton. “The efficiency AwardLetter has brought system-wide, the improved student engagement—with mobile AwardLetters, we believe the possibilities are endless.”
Study after study highlights how confusing financial aid award letters are for students and parents to understand. In fact, more than 65% of high-debt student borrowers are confused by some aspect of their loan. It's a clear indication that many students are making one of the biggest purchases of their life without fully understanding their commitment. #NotAwesome.
Studies by the Jack Kent Cook Foundation, uAspire and New America, and the National Association of Financial Aid Administrators highlight best practices (and worst practices) to keep in mind as you re-imagine the perfect award letter. Find out how your award letter measures up to industry best practices.