MARQUETTE, MICH., (NOVEMBER 27, 2012)—Northern Michigan University is one of nine colleges and universities nationwide being recognized by University Business magazine in its “Models of Efficiency” national recognition program. Sponsored by Higher One, a company that assists in college business office operations, the Models of Efficiency program recognizes innovative approaches for streamlining higher education operations through technology and/or business process improvements.
“Universities everywhere today need to generate more productivity with fewer staff, and Northern Michigan’s automated scholarship application system does an excellent job of achieving that goal,” said Tim Goral, editor in chief of University Business. “We applaud Northern Michigan not only for their improvements in efficiency, but also for creating a scholarship system that is more student-focused.”
At Northern Michigan University, the Foundation Scholarship application and selection process was inefficient and labor intensive. Students reviewed eligibility requirements on the web, and then submitted paper applications for each scholarship to which they wanted to apply. Financial Aid collected, tracked, and sorted the applications, then distributed them to committees for review and selection, after which they were returned to Financial Aid for verification against scholarship criteria.
Two staff members spent nearly four weeks recording, handling, sorting and distributing 5,378 applications, checking multiple Ellucian Banner screens to verify data, making copies and routing to screening committees. Two critical sets of data – student biographical and academic information and specific scholarship criteria – existed separately in Banner; the challenge was to bring them together.
Brian Larson, senior web developer, and Robyn Stille, executive director of alumni relations and annual giving, collaborated to create a web application that matched students’ profile to scholarship selection criteria. Students see three levels: scholarships that exactly match their attributes, close matches and those that do not match (in the event there was some extraneous circumstance not provided for within the system, such as plans to change their major). The system includes directions for scholarships with unique circumstances and FAQs. Students can track the status of their apps (submitted, under review, awarded, etc.). “Brian designed a very user-friendly system for presenting a set of complicated data and students love it,” said Felecia Flack, director of information services.
The new system reduced data entry, paper, timing and labor costs, increased data accuracy and provides more information to selection committees. Processing time by Financial Aid was reduced by 88 percent, from two staffers working full time for four weeks to one staff member working five days. There has been a 36 percent increase in the number of applications submitted and a 19 percent increase in the number of students submitting one or more applications.
“The whole Foundation scholarship application process has become so much more efficient at every level,” said Mike Rotundo, director of Financial Aid. “It’s a great example of departments working together to improve service to our students.”
In addition to Northern Michigan University, Models of Efficiency winter 2012 honorees include: Baldwin University (Ohio); Dallas County Community College District (Texas); Pepperdine University’s Graziadio School of Business and Management (Calif.); NorthWest Arkansas Community College; Polk State College (Fla.); Southern California University of Health Sciences; Texas A&M Health Science Center; and University of West Georgia.
Models of Efficiency is an ongoing recognition program. Higher ed institutions can participate in upcoming rounds by visiting www.universitybusiness.com/moe.
The program is sponsored by Higher One, a leading company focused on helping college business offices manage operations and provide enhanced service to students. Through a full array of services from refunds to payments, electronic billing, payment plans, and more, Higher One works closely with colleges and universities to ensure students receive financial aid refunds quickly, pay tuition and bills online, make on-campus and community purchases, and learn the basics of financial management.
“From creativity to planning to technology implementation and results, we are always inspired by the honorees’ outstanding efforts to streamline operational efficiencies,” said Miles Lasater, co-founder and COO of Higher One. “We are proud to stand with University Business to support and recognize all nine Models of Efficiency winners.”
University Business is the leading publication for senior managers at colleges and universities throughout the United States, reaching 46,000 leaders who manage offices such as enrollment, technology, facilities, and academic affairs. More information is available at www.universitybusiness.com.