Students from low-income family groups who want to continue their education are the worst hit due to the ongoing COVID-19 situation. This has led to job loss and has affected the financial status of the families, while financial aid applications are still dependent on the previous year’s (pre-pandemic) income data. There will a gap in this year’s numbers compared to last year’s income data for families that are looking for student financial aid support. While this represents one of the challenges that students are grappling with, the journey gets tougher post the SAR (Student Aid application) form submission by students through the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) in the US. The Student Aid Package goes through multiple revisions due to changes in student details, missing information, change in the program, and other factors affecting the Student Loan eligibility criteria. This rework and multiple revisions leads to higher turnaround time, in turn resulting in a backlog of SAR even after the term starts, which leads to uncertainty of aid approval and directly impacts student experience.
Some of the complexities and challenges impacting the lead-time of SAR include but are not limited to:
These challenges drive the need to rethink and redesign the financial aid support system, accelerate SAR closures before the term starts, and enhance student experience through the adoption of the four pillars namely Simplification, Standardization, Automation, and Immersive Experience to deliver the right essential outcomes.
To navigate the disruption, the industry needs to:
To accelerate SAR closures, improve stakeholder/student experience, and increase efficiency, the industry should leverage automation, effective case-management tools and analytics, along with digital interventions like Natural Language Processing, Artificial Intelligence, Reasoning and Machine Learning to enable data-driven decisions.
AI chatbots, self-service enablement, effective end-to-end case management and data extraction tools, and automation along with Analytics will help accelerate SAR closures, improve student experience, and reduce cost.
Below is a pictorial representation of a high-level financial aid process and an approach to bring the right interventions to redesign and enhance the process.
Below is a pictorial representation of Transformation levers that can be leveraged at various stages of financial aid support.
Urmila Chauhan, Manager
New Age, Media, and Education, Digital Operations & Platforms, Wipro
Urmila has over 16 years of experience in the BPO industry handling various portfolios like Service Delivery, Operations, Project Management, Training, and Quality Assurance across Travel, Transportation, Logistics, Telecom, Media, and Education. Urmila has been extensively involved in new-age media and education pre-sales efforts, addressing industry challenges and crafting customized solutions for the rapidly changing business landscape.