The Financial Aid Office's Role in Enrollment Management: Part 1

By McGhee, Kenneth | College and University, Spring 2015 | Go to article overview

The Financial Aid Office's Role in Enrollment Management: Part 1


McGhee, Kenneth, College and University


The financial aid office plays an important role with regard to an institution's enrollment management goals. Some colleges and universities have a significant amount of institutional funds to award to students each year. Meetings are held to discuss, develop, and outline the awarding philosophy for prospective and currently enrolled students. At numerous other colleges and universities, only limited funds are available for scholarships, and federal student aid is the primary source of finances for students and their families.

The financial aid office helps students and families understand their options and responsibilities relative to paying for higher education. Federal, state, and institutional rules and regulations do not allow the financial aid office to always offer the funds needed to fully meet college and university expenses.

Strong emotions can come to the forefront when dealing with situations related to personal finance. Sometimes a financial aid office has to deny a student or family's request for additional funding. Doing so creates an interesting dynamic. Financial aid administrators routinely make exceptions (to the extent that regulations permit them to) in order to assist students and families. When such action still does not provide the preferred outcome, institutional funding options can be considered.

If institutional funding is not available or is not appropriate given the particular situation, then students and families may complain to the president's office or to the vice president or dean who supervises the financial aid department. (People are used to asking to speak with a manager when they are not satisfied with the services provided by an organization.) In situations in which the financial aid office has already utilized all the legal exceptions it can, a student's request for additional aid may again be denied, by the dean, the vice president, or the president.

Senior administration is not always in agreement with the financial aid office. It may believe that the financial aid director can make an exception that has not yet been offered. It may think that something can be done to offer students more funding-if only the financial aid director would communicate the solution.

Such situations can result in senior-level administration perceiving the financial aid office as not being student centered and as not offering good-quality customer service. This can result in the department being perceived as not supporting the institution's enrollment management goals.

How can the financial aid office support an institution's enrollment management goals? The first step is to review how the institution approaches the enrollment management process. Consider the following questions:

* Enrollment management philosophy: What approaches are being taken to recruit and enroll students?

* University marketing: In what ways does the institution reach out to potential students?

* Admissions and financial aid coordination: How do these two offices coordinate services in order to recruit and enroll students?

* Utilization of technology: Is technology being used to the maximum extent possible to support the work of staff and to offer students more self-service options ?

* Student retention: How are students being helped to complete their degree programs?

* Strategic enrollment management plan: Is a formal enrollment management plan in place?

How an institution informally and formally defines and manages its day-to-day operations in these six categories has an impact on the financial aid office. Even if a formal enrollment management plan is not in place, each institution nevertheless has a way of providing services to new and continuing students. For example, many institutions advertise for and accept late admissions applications. If an institution accepts late applicants, it should have input from each student service office-including financial aid-about how best to assist them. …

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