When applying for any of the more than 200 institutional scholarships at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, whose worldwide campus is based in Daytona Beach, Fla., students used to complete an online form and then spend time gathering an essay and 15 to 20 pages of additional hardcopy documentation. Financial aid staff then sorted and filed it all away in physical file folders. Before using an Excel spreadsheet to track progress and prepare the application for review, staff had to manipulate the data to be legible, review for completeness, and convert the supporting documents into a PDF file. This process took 25 to 30 minutes for each application.
During a casual conversation with the financial aid director about the process, Christine Worling, director of business information systems, recognized that she could simplify it.
She turned to Intelliworks web-based software, which the university was already using for prospect management and admissions applications. Along with her team, business and systems analyst Arash Sabet-Rasekh, and financial aid counselor Amanda Boley, Worling spent the next month developing an application for use by the financial aid office.
“Although not a typical use of the software, the Intelliworks solution allows each applicant to complete a formal and more professional application and permits them to attach their supporting documentation electronically,” says Worling. The final output, which is given to the scholarship review committee, is in PDF format, eliminating the need to convert files, manually enter data, or track in spreadsheets. Financial aid employees now spend just three to five minutes processing each application, because all the data is housed in the Intelliworks system, rather than scattered in filing cabinets.
Not only is the new process more efficient, it has improved communication with students regarding application status. Emails can now be generated en masse, rather than manually created for each student
Reporting capabilities are also much-improved, with Student and Technology Services being able to provide financial aid staff with detailed reporting on applicants. “These reports allow the Financial Aid Office to better determine if an applicant is missing information, establish if the applicant is eligible for the scholarship, and verify whether or not the university has received a large enough applicant pool,” says Worling.
Because of the success of the first two scholarship programs, the university is launching more scholarship opportunities for students, now that the time required to process applicants has shrunk to a total of 6 to 7 hours. In addition, more students are applying for scholarships, for the same reason—it takes less time.