How CSU East Bay Kicked Financial Aid Backlog—and Burnout—to the Curb

Life in the financial aid office at California State University, East Bay was stressful—and students were frustrated. “Everyone, leadership and faculty included, wanted to know why things were taking so long,” said Isabelle Mora, Director of Financial Aid. “We had to make some big changes to drive student success and to get us out of the weeds.” The fact that her changes translated into success for Graduation Initiative 2025, a key effort spearheaded by the California State University (CSU) system, was icing on the cake.

Life Before: Stressful, Manual, Transactional

CSU East Bay is a member of the 23-campus CSU system that educates 484,000 students every year. Almost 13,000 East Bay students receive financial aid. More than 60% of East Bay’s student population is first generation, and 48% are Pell-eligible.  

When Mora joined CSU East Bay in October 2017, those students were facing weeks-long verification and frustration wherever they turned for updates. The FinAid office received 700 calls a day—many callers hung up before getting an answer—and hours-long lines stretched down the hall. Some team members were avoiding the phone because the calls were never-ending, she says. “Staff burnout was a real risk.”

The Solution: StudentForms by CampusLogic

While working at a school in Washington State, Mora had seen a demonstration of CampusLogic—and was hooked. “They had told us we had no money for it over there, and it broke our hearts,” she recalls. “I knew it would change everything for us—staff and students—at CSU East Bay.”  

StudentForms® simplifies financial aid processes—like verification, professional judgments, and satisfactory academic progress (SAP) appeals. A key component of the cloud-based CampusLogic student financial success platform, StudentForms provides a digital portal for FinAid professionals to manage tasks, review files, and automate student communications via text and email. Plus, students can upload documents from any mobile device—a feature FA offices and students both love.

Less Stress, Improved Compensation, Deeper Conversations

Mora went live with StudentForms while still dealing with a 17/18 backlog, but starting to process 18/19 verifications. She split up the work, assigning three full-time staff members to clear the 17/18 backlog using their old manual system. She assigned one reviewer to clearing incoming 18/19 verifications using StudentForms. “That one person using StudentForms was pushing out more files than the three people using the old format combined,” says Mora.

Weekly team meetings allowed staff to talk about optimizing StudentForms, including how to use it to streamline SAP appeals and professional judgement requests – a big improvement considering CSU East Bay previously tracked all its SAP appeals in an Excel® spreadsheet.

PeopleSoft: Mischief Managed Through Integration

Another selling point? Automating finicky PeopleSoft® workflows. “Our PeopleSoft student information system had gotten to a point that we had more workflows than we could manage,” Mora says. Instead of having to manually go in and check off boxes and lists, full single-sign on integration between the SIS and StudentForms means everything’s now automated, resulting in major time savings, Mora reports.

She adds that StudentForms also standardizes processes: “Everyone follows the same steps. Any person can step in to help at any time because the path, and where the student is at in the process, is transparent.” Previously, CSU East Bay used an alpha-split for incoming verifications, she says. “Depending on skill level, it was definitely an inconsistent experience for students.”

Now AwardLetter is Helping FinAid Drive Student Success

With one of the most diverse student bodies in the United States, the CSU system is laser focused on Graduation Initiative 2025. It’s an ambitious initiative to increase graduation rates for all CSU students while eliminating opportunity and achievement gaps. Part of the plan: ensuring financial need does not impede student success. That’s why Mora enlisted AwardLetter ® by CampusLogic, which will help CSU East Bay send out mobile, interactive, personalized communications across the student lifecycle.

It passed its first test with flying colours during the last Welcome Day, where staff usually struggled to help a long line of students with financial aid questions. A pre-Welcome Day AwardLetter communication meant 2019 was the first without those frustrating lines – a situation welcomed by both students and staff.

More Time for Who Matters at CSU East Bay: Students

Better informed students and a streamlined process have completely transformed CSU East Bay’s financial aid office. “The staff are able to meet with students more,” Mora explains. “We’ve been able to launch more outreach campaigns and do more financial aid workshops because we’re not so inundated with tasks and manual work.” And that’s exactly the outcome she was looking for.

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