For many students, financial aid is a key factor when deciding on a college or university. This high-stakes process can ultimately make the difference between whether a student goes to college or not. However, the complexity and time-sensitive nature of the financial aid process can make it almost impossible for students to successfully complete the process. Butler University is using Oracle Student Financial Planning Cloud to simplify the process and improve the experience for students.
The information that students want and need in regard to their financial aid boil down to three simple questions:
- How much money am I getting?
- When am I getting that money?
- Why haven’t I gotten my money yet?
This all begs the question: Why is this process so complicated and how can we make it simpler? It should be as easy for a student to get information about their financial aid as it is to check the tracking status of an online retail order.
Butler University’s Solution
Butler University, a private university in Indianapolis, Indiana, is revolutionizing financial aid. In order to make things simpler for the 15,000 students who apply to Butler University and the 1,200 who ultimately are accepted and enroll, Butler University is rolling out Oracle Student Financial Planning Cloud—part of Oracle’s Student Cloud.
The application shows students exactly what the cost of an education is at the university, which scholarships and grants they’ve been offered, and how much they would have to take out in loans. All of this can be seen through easy-to-use mobile and web interfaces.
“Being able to make this process more navigable is incredibly beneficial. We have students who leave the process every year without getting through it. Those are potential students who don’t even get as far as a financial aid package to discover if Butler is a possibility.”
—Melissa Smurdon, Director of Financial Aid at Butler University
Before Cloud, Butler’s process was to send prospective Butler students a piece of paper that outlines the next steps in the financial aid process. However, simply giving them a list doesn’t ensure that they’ll successfully complete all of the tasks.
With Oracle Student Financial Planning Cloud, students can go into the application and accomplish all tasks online in a seamless, integrated experience. It makes it easy for students to see exactly what still needs to be completed. For example, if a student is awarded a loan, Oracle Student Financial Planning Cloud will tell them exactly what they need to do to accept that loan.
This easy-to-use, intuitive application simplifies the financial aid process and ultimately results in higher student satisfaction and improved student outcomes.
Benefits for Butler University
In addition to the benefits to the students, there are also benefits for Butler University itself. Once Butler rolls out the Oracle Student Financial Planning Cloud, the university will be able to use the huge amount of new student data that is generated to plan not just for the year ahead, but four years into the future as well. This view into the future will help Butler see demand for aid in future years and the generated tuition revenue.
Butler currently has 14 financial aid administrators that handle roughly 22,000 student interactions each year. Having a Cloud application frees up Butler’s financial aid administrators to spend more time counseling students and families in order to make sure that they understand the financial implications of college and decide whether Butler is the right place for them.
Melissa Smurdon, Director of Financial Aid at Butler University, explained that the application will show staff that key processes are more straightforward than they previously realized. For example, estimating financial aid eligibility is built into the product, so counselors can start to counsel a student from an estimated aid perspective much earlier in the application process than before.
“Cloud isn’t about shiny technology or a slick delivery model. It’s about helping institutions spend more time focusing on what truly matters.”
—Nicole Engelbert, Oracle Vice President of Higher Education Development
There were several lessons learned during Butler’s Oracle Student Financial Planning Cloud implementation. Smurdon and her colleague Michele Thibodeau, Senior Information Systems Analyst, offered some tips for others based on obstacles that they faced.
- Use your first Cloud project as a jumping-off point. By successfully moving a complex process like financial aid into the Cloud, Butler has set the stage for other future Cloud projects. Thibodeau explained that other departments will look at this first project and think, “Maybe Cloud isn’t so scary,” and decide to embark on Cloud projects of their own. Next up may be blockchain for higher education.
- Make time for change management. While it’s important to train people and show them the benefits of the new system, it’s also important to make sure that other departments understand what you’re doing and how it might impact them. Butler’s approach to change management was to share a demonstration of the product and the vision behind its adoption. In addition, they made sure that people understood that they might not have as much IT support during the implementation period. People needed to understand how this project would affect them.
- Plan for the day after. Implementing your Cloud project isn’t the final step. You need to think of what other possibilities lie ahead as a result of your Cloud project. Oracle Student Financial Planning Cloud freed up time for the team at Butler University to focus on new, student-centric initiatives. Smurdon explained that financial aid professionals go into the job looking to work with students, not spend all of their time creating reports and sending reminder letters. This Cloud project gives them more time to focus on what matters—the students.
For more information about how Butler University is leveraging the Oracle Student Financial Planning Cloud to simplify financial aid, check out the Forbes article attached below. To learn more about what others in the realm of higher education are up to, check out some additional Quest resources attached below.