3 options for using technology to better manage the emergency financial aid process

While most institutions use financial aid systems to award and distribute regular financial aid, that isn’t always the case with emergency aid. Usually, each student’s situation must be evaluated  to determine whether emergency financial help is warranted and if so, at what level.

That process isn’t always built into the standard financial aid system—so institutions often need to get creative to make it automated.

“Institutions that can automate some portions of the delivery process would be able to help students more quickly,” says Amelia Parnell, vice president for research and policy at NASPA. “For example, if the initial application is in paper format only, that could require the student to take extra steps to submit the information.”

Link to main story: Colleges offer aid for the unexpected

Colleges and universities looking to automate the emergency aid process have a few options:

1. Design an in-house system. Michigan State University developed its own web-based process for emergency financial aid. “Students can apply, get approval and have funds available immediately, as long as the cashier’s office is open,” says Rick Shipman, executive director of financial aid at Michigan State.

But that web-based system is only effective for shorter term funding. “If they need a longer-term loan or grant dollars, we want to talk with them either on the phone or in person,” Shipman says.

2. Reconfigure your existing financial aid system to accommodate emergency aid. While many commercially available financial aid modules don’t explicitly include options for emergency support programs, they can easily be configured to accommodate such needs.

Programs like Empower have the capacity for schools to add on the components they need to simplify the management of emergency aid, says Gail Waldrup, client relations director at Empower Student Information System.

3. Opt for a financial aid solution that offers emergency aid functions. Few financial aid systems provide a total solution for emergency aid programs, but several have components of such programs already built in.

For instance, CampusLogic facilitates the Professional Judgment process, which allows school officials to adjust financial aid based on special circumstances.

Solutions from Ellucian, Regent Education and Campus Management provide the ability to manage and disburse short-term loans from the institution, and some offer management of emergency scholarships or cash payment plans for unexpected circumstances.

Student Connections’ forthcoming Success Center will eventually incorporate emergency funding, along with other nonacademic programs in a mobile student environment.  

Nancy Mann Jackson is an Alabama-based writer.


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