Technology for the Win: Scholarship Management Made Easy

Internal and external scholarship dollars play a crucial role in helping students close funding gaps—but the scholarship journey has historically been complicated and convoluted for students to navigate. It hasn’t been an easy path for financial aid and scholarship office staff either, who are often doing their best to manage millions of dollars in funding through spreadsheets and other manual approaches. With 10+ years of experience in the scholarship space, ranging from 2006 to 2018, I’m passionate about how we as an industry can make everything easier. In this blog post, the fourth of a six-part series, I cover Embracing Technology. You can view previous parts here: Part One-Scholarship Friction, Part Two-The Scholarship One-Stop Shop, and Part Three-Student-Centricity for Success. 


Babies born this week will grow up with smart phones, apps, and social media. These technologies will be so ingrained into their lives, they may not know how people functioned before them. Computer scientist Alan Kay described the relativity of technology best by saying, “Technology is anything that was invented after you were born.” Consider emerging technologies today like autonomous vehicles, virtual reality, and the ever-evolving internet of things. With everything constantly changing and evolving, you are likely already deciding if and how to integrate these technologies into your life. Embracing or avoiding technology is a shared experience between you and millions of people who came before you and will come after you. So, how do you decide which new platforms to adopt? 


Upgrading Our Understanding of Technology 

When email was on the rise in the 1990s, late adopters were asking, "Why not just call the person?" But when the movie, "You've Got Mail" came out, email suddenly transformed, and it wasn’t just about typing messages anymore. Instead, it was reconceptualized  as a way to fall in love. Sure, people could convey their messages via telephone in a fraction of the time it took to type an email, but the allure of digital communication had already grown.  Then texting entered the scene, but it still didn't replace phones or email; instead, the field of technology players continued to expand. Simply stated, technology adapts and grows, ingraining itself into our everyday lives, sometimes meeting needs or uses we never knew we had. 


The DNA of Technology 

Technology is like a living organism. It continually evolves with us. It disrupts and affects our day-to-day lives in a way so subtle that after a while, we cannot imagine what life was like before it. Phones, email, and texting haven't canceled each other out as some predicted, which is why we can never truly know what technologies will thrive or how they will ultimately carry on. Technology is not just bits and bytes, on and off, fast and faster—it's opportunity, surprising and life-changing.  


What Technology Wants 

 Kevin Kelly wrote in his book, "What Technology Wants," that we are beyond embracing technology; instead, we are symbiotic with it. Any notion that technology is separate from us is a myth. We as individuals may want to "unplug" from technology, but it is so ingrained in our society that if we choose to disconnect, we lose touch with a large portion of our reality. Much is said about technology—both good and bad—but the truth is that civilization depends on it to keep going, and it is much better for it. Technology wants what we want—to be useful.  


A Selective Embrace 

It’s not a matter of whether or not we use technology, because we all do. The question, instead, is one of priorities. With all the technological options at our disposal, it seems intuitive that we should utilize modern solutions when it comes to scholarships,  financial aid, and higher ed. Technology offers us many useful tools, and as end users, we have the opportunity to embrace them, use them, and help shape them. 


Embracing technology for student financial success will benefit us all. Just as phones, emails, and text messages increased access for communication, CampusLogic’s suite of technologies aiding student financial success will increase access to higher education. Avoiding technology for ourselves is one thing, but  denying students access to beneficial technology to help them achieve overall success is equivalent to unplugging their opportunities. We must choose wisely. 


About the Author

Ken Downs, Product Evangelist

Evangelizing how technology and best practices can remove friction for students, schools, and organizations in the scholarship and financial aid space, Downs is CampusLogic’s Product Evangelist. He was instrumental in leading the development of the University of Arizona’s national award-winning ScholarshipUniverse product, now part of CampusLogic’s platform. A longstanding member of the National Scholarship Provider’s Association, Downs has given workshops titled: Big Data and the Coming Scholarship Sea Change, Scholarship Hacking, and the Scholarship Universe Story.

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