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Financial Aid

Thanks to an external call center, internal wait times dropped from more than an hour to less than 15 minutes.

Sometimes Plan A and Plan B need to be implemented simultaneously before you can determine which is the better way to go all along. Increasing enrollment and soaring numbers of financial aid recipients at Lakeland Community College (Ohio) had combined with plunging state support to place an enormous burden on support staff who simply couldn’t keep up with students’ requests for help during peak times. In 2011, Lakeland implemented a dual solution in hopes of serving students in a more timely fashion and freeing staff from spending too much of their day handling routine requests.

College can be tough enough for traditional students. For those enrolled at community colleges, who often have less academic preparation and face added pressures from having to work to pay for school, the pathway to success can be even more daunting.

“In the community college system, we have open access, which means that any student who desires to come to us can,” says Patty Erjavec, president of Pueblo Community College (Colo.). “But keeping those students is a challenge, and graduating those students is a challenge.”

Three of the most dreaded words in the English language are “financial aid application.” Parents hate it. Students fear it. And administrators try not to be overwhelmed by all the documentation associated with it.

In these days of instantaneous communication, having to wait for an answer feels anachronistic. If our e-mail isn’t returned within five minutes, we call our colleague to make sure she got it. Technology, it seems, has sped communication as well as slowed it down, as multiple means of messaging?telephones, online channels, face-to-face conversation?crowd one another for attention.

An empty classroom became a call center staffed by students after two weeks of training. Now phone wait times are under two minutes.

Because of the smooth aid award eligibility process, students can concentrate on the business of getting to campus and getting housing, books, and other details in order.