Service in an Era of Change
Many institutions are facing tremendous growth in the number of students
enrolling in non-traditional programs at non-traditional times and in
non-traditional semesters. Yes, it is terrific to see enrollments increase
and facilities—which have typically gone empty during the evening
and weekend hours—used to their fullest capacity. However, this
new trend in enrollment can pose a challenge for the institution.
Why? Even in an era where the student typically has a better than average grasp of technology and such things as IM’s are mundane, the parent—who is often the primary decision maker—may not. For first-generation students and students from underserved populations, this gap in the communications process between the Financial Aid Office and the parent can mean the difference between the student accessing and not accessing higher education.
What does this mean for financial aid offices at institutions where such students are the norm rather than the exception, especially in the non-traditional programs/times/semesters? It may mean that we may never be able to fully leave the pen/paper application and communication process. Is that a bad thing? It all depends on your perspective. Paper certainly costs more and takes more time to process than an e-mail, IM or electronic download; but, if having paper processes means your students with need will actually obtain the information they need on financial aid and will follow through with filing for aid, then it’s a cost that’s well worth factoring into your budget.