Financial Aid offices have a tremendous responsibility that comes with a lot of pressure. Your office is responsible for helping students get the financial aid they deserve within state and federal regulations. There are so many factors at play as a financial aid officer.
It’s essential to meet with your teams annually to discuss success stories and challenges you have faced in your office. Some things to consider are: what were your successes, and what strategies can you take from them? What challenges did you face, and how can you break these into best practices for future semesters?
Here are the top five practices that we’ve found to be the best:
1. Document Everything
There is so much involved with processing a student’s financial aid package compliantly. While it may not seem necessary to document everything, all decisions even minor (a change in job status, a small scholarship, etc.), could create challenges during an audit. Ensure staff documents each conversation with a student to reference later.
2. Review Policies and Procedures
It is essential to review your Financial Aid office’s policies and procedures annually and update them accordingly. Summer is a great time to think about questions to add to your existing list and edit your FAQ library. In addition, the slower pace of June can help you build your library and share it with your team before inbound call volume increases and students return to campus.
3. Stay informed
Connect with your state and federal agencies (such as fsapartners.ed.gov) to view any changes in financial aid regulation. If your office is not operating under the newest guidelines, your students and your campus could be at a disservice.
4. When in Doubt, Ask
Even the most seasoned Financial Aid officers have questions. There are many things to keep track of and many regulations to follow. Do not hesitate to ask someone else if you are in doubt. Asking a fellow colleague can mean the difference between a satisfied student and a successful audit versus frustrated students and audit findings.
5. Provide clear directions
Starting a new school year can be difficult, especially for students. Provide incoming students with a list of documents required with clear directions and deadlines. Having access to this information will make your students more comfortable and lessen the burden for you and your staff in the long term.
These best practices should help your Financial Aid office run efficiently and smoothly. At FA Solutions, we’ve helped many institutions with understanding compliance, processes & procedures, and staff management. Talk to us about our ‘Processing’ support service specially curated for your institution. Visit GetFASolutions.com today.
By Bridget McGuire, April 1 2022