Financial aid communications play a major (but sometimes overlooked) role in the enrollment funnel. When award letters and notifications are not clear, students do not understand what they have earned and how their financial aid package stacks up against what other schools may be offering. Kathy Bialk, Executive Director of Student Financial Aid and Scholarships at the University of Kentucky, knew students could not make well-informed choices about where they would attend school if they could not understand their financial aid packages.
Imagining a new way to communicate with students
Home to a combined undergraduate, graduate and professional student population of more than 30,000 students, The University of Kentucky’s financial aid notification process required a massive lift from staff. Manual processes required paper letters to be mailed to incoming first-year students and transfer students. This was an understandably heavy lift for UK’s financial aid team, as Bialk describes it. “Thousands and thousands of letters needed to be generated, printed and mailed out. Making it a time-consuming process for staff and not so timely for students.”
The need for a more powerful, digital-first communication tool was clear. After using a tool that had customization limitations, staff advocated for a shift to CampusCommunicator. Bialk said the motivation was simple, “We needed a more efficient and effective way to deliver vital financial information that impacts admission yield and absolutely affects student success.”
CampusCommunicator replaces confusion with clarity, guiding students through the financial aid process with personalized communication free from jargon. Personalized, actionable messaging takes students by the hand and leads them through their award letters and financial aid steps.
Making the shift seamless
When Kathy and her team decided to implement the CampusLogic Student Financial Success platform, they were on a mission. The University of Kentucky implemented four different solutions—CampusCommunicator, ClearCost, ScholarshipUniverse and StudentForms—sequentially over a period of six months. That was no small feat, but according to Kathy, it was a seamless transition, thanks to support from CampusLogic, her financial aid staff, and campus partners in communications, analytics and IT. According to Bialk, the stellar experience she had bringing on ScholarshipUniverse and ClearCost made adding additional CampusLogic products an easy choice.
“CampusLogic’s onboarding and training process is the most effective project management that I have experienced in my 35 years in higher education,” said Bialk.
The onboarding process begins with collaborating with stakeholders from across campus to map out a plan based on institutional goals. This ensures cross-departmental cooperation, accountability and commitment from the start of implementation to the finish line.
Breaking through the noise to reach more students
If you have worked in a financial aid office for more than one day, you know how difficult it can be to get students' attention, especially with detailed financial aid information. “CampusCommunicator contributes greatly to helping students and families make informed decisions because the communications are transparent,” said Bialk, “We’re able to display what their degree will cost in an easily readable, visually attractive way.”
In financial aid, we often ask students to be sieves and sift through mountains of information to find what applies to them. Personalized communications allow UK to direct students to the information and financial aid options that are relevant to their situation. Incoming students no longer run the risk of being bombarded with things they just do not need to know.
Since launching CampusCommunicator, The University of Kentucky has drastically improved student open rates. Within a few hours of sending financial aid notifications, they typically see 80% open rates that often exceed 90% after a few days. Even with a stellar open rate, Bialk is making sure no student or parent is missed. Email and text message notifications are coupled with printed award letters automated through CampusCommunicator. This reaches the few students who have not responded to digital outreach and the parents who prefer something tangible.
More time for one-on-one support with students
Streamlining how their student communication process has given Kathy and her staff the opportunity to focus on higher-impact actions. As Kathy put it, staff are now taking back hundreds, if not thousands, of hours each year that were once spent printing and stuffing paper envelopes or answering backlogs of calls and emails with repetitive questions. And now, their customer service ratings have increased, and staff are free to focus on giving high-touch assistance to more complex student challenges.