When Karolina Holl stepped into the leadership role at Utica College’s Financial Aid Office, she quickly set a goal to move things into the digital age. “Paper, paper, and more paper. We had lots of paper and lots of people. Everything was done manually,” she explained. Things were changing at the small, private institution in upstate New York. “Financial aid cycle times had to improve, and staff was feeling frustrated in their efforts to help students more quickly.”
Focus on People, Not Paper
Utica College’s paper-heavy financial aid process was resulting in stacks of paperwork. “I had many employees whose whole job was paper processing: verifying IDs, deciphering handwriting,” Holl said. “I had people with great ideas that just weren’t able to put those things in place, and not able to spend time with the students and families directly because they were bogged down with the paperwork.”
Utica’s Solution: StudentForms by CampusLogic
Utica College chose to implement StudentForms® by CampusLogic, and today the college’s financial aid process is completely paperless and mobile-friendly—exactly how students want it. StudentForms simplifies financial aid processes—like verification, professional judgments, and SAP appeals. A key component of the cloud-based CampusLogic student financial success platform, StudentForms is a digital portal for managing tasks, creating workflow-driven file reviews, auto-indexed documents, automated student communications via text and email, and secure document-uploading from any mobile device.
Mobile-Friendly Financial Aid Drives More Informed Borrowing
The college’s financial aid call center used to spend a great deal of time helping students and families with basic questions, such as: “Who’s in my household? Who should I put on this form? Which parent signs this part, Parent 1 or Parent 2,” Holl explained. “It sometimes kept call center staff too busy to have in-depth conversations.”
StudentForms’ clear, concise interface and helpful features, like hover definitions, have stopped that flow of basic questions coming in. “We’ve moved from answering one-off type questions to having more in-depth conversations, which is what we wanted,” said Holl. “Now when students call, we’re discussing things like, which loans are better for which students, whether they should do the sub or the un-sub, how they qualify for that, and how much to borrow for a Parent PLUS Loan. We can have more educational and in-depth conversations.”
93 Percent Improvement in Verification Processing Time
With undergraduate enrollment of 3,685, roughly 95% of Utica College students receive some form of financial aid. Prior to CampusLogic, Utica would mail a package of forms to students selected for verification. The time needed for parents and students to complete and return all the information, combined with the time needed to process information back at the office, left students curious about their status and next steps.
Today, verification is completely paperless. “Now, once the student gets all that information in, we have cut the turn-around time to within 48 hours, which is huge.” The 93 percent improvement rate is bolstered further by the fact that StudentForms automates all of the manual follow-up Holl’s team previously did with trying to collect missing forms and information. “Everything is guided for the student in StudentForms, and they can log in and check their status and task lists 24/7. It’s amazing.”
More Efficiency, Less Panic, Vacations for Staff (No Really)
Holl’s previous stress about managing vacation, appointments, and sick days is long gone. “Even with a fully-staffed office, back when we were paper-heavy, I still panicked when people were off,” she said. “I would think ‘who’s going to do this and who is going to do that while they’re out?’ Now everyone has their time off for Thanksgiving and the December holidays if they want. I didn’t have to tell anyone no, which is a huge relief.”
A Smooth Implementation & Integration
Holl chose to integrate StudentForms with Banner®, her Ellucian-based student information system, enabling Single-Sign-On. “The integration and implementation was seamless,” Holl said, noting her financial aid office was up and running with StudentForms in about six weeks. “We hit the ground at full speed.”
Putting the Student at the Center of Everything
“Our President is very focused on providing students with an affordable, valuable education,” Holl explained. StudentForms fit that mandate, keeping students moving in the process toward their degrees and driving the best student experience while saving Utica time and money. Financial Aid was recently merged with Student Success, creating UC’s Center for Student Success. The new setup not only helps students, as they are able to get questions answered and issues resolved much faster, but has also built understanding and cohesion between the departments.
Getting Real About Affordability
A commitment to college access and completion resonates at Utica College. In 2016, the college enacted the ‘A Bold Move for Tomorrow’ program, which reduced tuition fees by 42 percent to under $20,000. Nothing about the quality of education changed—scholarships and grants were adjusted with the tuition reset—but the move was made to be more transparent to students and families.
Innovative initiatives, like the tuition reset and partnerships with solutions like CampusLogic, are helping Utica College show students and families how a college education is possible. “We’re helping families understand that we’re a small private college that is affordable.”