The U.S. Department of Education’s requirement that colleges verify the identity of prospective students created an overwhelming amount of work for the Dallas County Community College District (Texas). In 2009-2010, DCCCD educated 87,000 students and processed nearly 60,000 financial aid applications for its seven colleges. Of those applications, 40 percent, or approximately 24,000, were selected for verification. That meant 24,000 students had to print off forms, copy tax returns, complete worksheets, and then fax, mail, or hand in other materials to confirm their identity and the financial details they had provided.
Because of the amount of paperwork, and the fact that more than half of the verification forms were completed incorrectly, financial aid office staff were fighting an uphill battle. Lines of students stretched out the door as staff members met individually with students, answered the constantly-ringing phone, and dealt with compliance issues. Reviewing files manually for verification took six to eight weeks to complete, delaying financial aid awards. Student dissatisfaction was high. “We never had enough manpower to complete the work that had to be done,” admits Sharon Blackman, provost for educational affairs.
In 2010, a review of internal business processes led to the opportunity for change. Recognizing the need for a technology solution, the financial aid office worked with purchasing to find a qualified vendor to partner with.