Cuesta College Reduces FinAid Processing Time by 89%

Tracy Skochil

“We had a problem, that was clear,” says Patrick Scott, Director of Financial Aid at Cuesta College in California.

“Staffing issues, unstandardized processes, a paper-based, manual approach—it was a horrible, expensive game of mail tag that added up to really long wait times for students.” It also impacted funding for the community college with an enrollment exceeding 10,000.

Executive Support for Finding the Right Solution

Cuesta’s biggest advocate for change: The new Dean of Student Services, Catherine Riedstra. “She was a visionary,” explains Scott. “She said, ‘We can fix this. Let’s find the solution.’” Scott’s team identified student verification as one of the biggest hurdles and set out to find ways to streamline. Cuesta’s average packaging time for a student going through verification was 80 days; nonverification students were packaged in roughly 60 days.

Cuesta’s Biggest FinAid Hurdle: Unstandardized Manual Processes

Riedstra suggested the team explore CampusLogic, which she first heard about at the FSA Conference. To win over Cuesta, CampusLogic had to:

  • Keep control of the verification process in-house
  • Streamline the process
  • Make it easy for students to provide information
  • Require minimal staff training for Cuesta
  • Be fast to implement
  • Offer competitive pricing

Cuesta’s Solution: Easy, Mobile, Personalized FinAid

StudentForms—part of the CampusLogic financial aid engagement platform—simplifies FinAid processes (verification, professional judgments, SAP appeals) by making FinAid forms easy, mobile, and personalized. Driven by ISIR logic, StudentForms offers a digital portal to manage tasks, workflow-driven file review, auto-indexed documents, automated student communications via text and email, and secure doc upload from any device.

A Better Student Experience: Text Alerts, No Lines

Once live with CampusLogic, Scott saw a massive impact. “I used to clear 50+ voicemails when I got in, and we dealt with huge lines out the door,” he explains. “Now we answer phone calls in real-time—and if one person is sitting in a chair waiting, I get worried.” Key to the reduction in call volume and in-person visits: Cuesta enabled text-alert notifications (for those who opted-in) and automated email reminders to students. “We used to do all of this back-and-forth through the mail. How ridiculous is that?

75% Reduction in Time Spent Chasing Documents

The team was concerned CampusLogic would be hard to learn, too tech-based, too tedious. “When you’ve been doing something the same way for years, change can be tough—and daunting.” Scott invited everyone on his team to the demo of StudentForms. “When they saw that verifying a student record could happen in anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour, they were sold.”

Scott estimates CampusLogic reduced Cuesta’s legwork to get necessary documents by 75%. Staff now funnels saved time into high-touch FinAid initiatives such as outreach and default prevention.

Enrollment and Retention Benefits

“it’s an amazing price point for the transformation we’ve been seeing in our office,” says Scott. “Enrollment is fighting for every student they can get. Packaging awards earlier puts students ahead of the game, because they can start planning.”

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