Summer, 2003

Volume XXXVIII, Number 1

In This Issue:

From the President
Across the State
Fall KASFAA Conference
RMASFAA Summer Institute
College Goal Sunday
Customer Service
Loan Consolidation
Job Hunting for Students

The Oz-Sociated Press is published four times a year by the KASFAA Newsletter Committee:

Cindy Stanphill, Chair
Amanda Blue, Co-chair

From The President: Chris Johnson

Chris Johnson, KASFAA State President

I learned recently that a financial aid director's job was being phased out. The school had apparently decided to go with a third-party provider for financial aid service and no longer needed a financial aid director. It was a business decision.

I was concerned that this could happen, not only because a person loses a job, but also because I couldn't believe that a school might consider cost savings over personal interaction with students. After thinking more about it, I realized this was one foreseeable outcome to the process of moving from person-to-person financial aid to automated financial aid. If a school thinks it is acceptable to use a servicer, could it mean that it believes students would have no problem disassociating the financial aid process, or at least a part of it, from the school itself? It looks like at least one school was willing to take the risk.

I've been a part of financial aid for 11 years. When I started, financial aid was almost completely a paper process for the student. It could take quite a bit of time to get the aid to a student. Application for aid was a paper process, as was award acceptance, loan application, entrance counseling and exit counseling. My first job was processing financial aid transcripts, very much a paper process. Students interacted with the office through mail, walk-in contact and phone calls - lots of phone calls. Even then, people were looking for ways to avoid coming into the office to possibly have to stand in line to get information, but at least we were talking to them person-to-person. Complaints about service were the norm.

During the 1990s, online access emerged as a new means to communicate. By the end of the decade, most schools and associate members were embracing the web as a way to cut costs and improve access to the financial aid office. Students could fill out applications and forms online or view information 24 hours a day in many cases. Students could get money much sooner now, since automation sped up virtually every step of the process from application to delivery of aid. Email communication was much cheaper than phone calls. For many, phone calls were down and complaints were down.

So, that's where we are today. I bet many of us have seen our counseling and clerical staff downsized over the last decade due to automated services such as NSLDS replacing FATs and online counseling replacing our personal appointment or group presentation of required loan counseling information. We have online FAFSAs, online MPN applications, online Perkins applications... the list keeps growing. We now see that automation has probably cost a director a job.

So, as we embrace the technology that makes our jobs easier and speeds up aid delivery to students, are we not training our students to disassociate financial aid staff from the process as well? As we improve our ways to keep students out of the office, are we eliminating the need for our office as well? Should we be surprised that Acme Financial Aid comes knocking on the door to offer its services?

Chris Johnson
President, KASFAA
University of Kansas

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