By Chris Chumley
When the Department of Education released some new suggestions for financial communications earlier this year, we couldn't say we were surprised by suggestion #1 to avoid calling your communication an 'award' or a 'letter.' We're all for discussion that drives momentum around making things easier for students to understand—student-centricity is at the heart of our student financial success platform. But while the dust settles on this debate, we're sticking with our name.
As a product manager, you can spend a lot of time coming up with a good name for your product. The name should help a customer decide that they truly need your product by drawing attention, communicating value, and ultimately signal the problem it is trying to solve for the customer.
When we launched AwardLetter in 2015, we were pretty excited about the name. It seemed perfect. We had read study after study proving that students and parents don’t understand award letters. We did our research into how confusion over award letters was leading to over-borrowing for some—and to complete frustration and disengagement for others. Paying for college is overwhelming, and the award letters being used weren’t helping.
By naming CampusLogic’s product “AwardLetter,” everybody would immediately know what it was, and would understand the problem it solved for. Awesome! We thought.
Ironic Fact #1: It Isn’t A Letter!
Students don’t send letters anymore. Don’t believe me? Just ask an 18 to 24-year-old to address and seal an envelope, and then put a stamp on it. The results are hilarious.
Our AwardLetter creates and delivers digital and mobile award letters and shopping sheets which allow dynamic personalization of content. Because our AwardLetters and shopping sheets are web pages personalized for each (yes each) student, institutions can use multimedia and audience-relevant, timely dynamic content to communicate financial aid information.
Additional technologies can also be added to CampusLogic’s AwardLetter. In actuality, our AwardLetter crafts student-specific financial planning portals complete with financial wellness tools, loan repayment calculators, and budgeting tools to help parents and students make more informed decisions about one of the biggest financial decisions many will ever make.
Ironic Fact #2 – It's Not Always an 'Award'
AwardLetter is really a student engagement engine. While many schools utilize AwardLetter for grant and scholarship communications, they also usually include loans. Plus, institutions we work with are now using their AwardLetter to engage and communicate across the financial aid lifecycle. CampusLogic’s communication templates can be used to create the following engagement points for your students (if you're a California institution, there are these too):
- Initial Welcome FA Applicants: Share an overview of your institution’s financial aid process, personalized to the applicant. Generate this automatically based on the ISIR receipt.
- Anticipated/Unofficial Award Notices: Provide preliminary estimates, planning tools and next steps.
- CFPB Shopping Sheets: Deliver a mobile version of the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau shopping sheet to communicate cost and value to students.
- Official Award Letters and Revisions: Communicate award letter information and revisions caused by enrollment changes. Drive financial literacy with engaging tools.
- Multi-Year Financial Plans: Use the online format to map out a plan for each student’s entire career at the institution in terms of financial aid.
- Debt/Loan Letters: Many states have initiated programs to send students a periodic letter explaining Pell and Subsidized Loan Eligibility to date, total debt to date, and a breakdown of anticipated monthly repayment amounts. This could be combined with the student’s academic progress to-date to encourage persistence and lower borrowing.
Financial Aid's Communication Engine
With CampusLogic’s AwardLetter, a school can send all of the above communications—and others—via email and/or text messaging, keeping students engaged at appropriate times. The student/parent experience can also be improved by embedding live chat, video conferencing, and multi-lingual support.
The opportunities for building a strong relationship with students during the financial aid process and providing them information in a format they prefer can have a dramatic impact on financial aid completion rates and enrollment.
And you just thought it was a letter…