University Business - March 2008 - (Page 33)

MONEY M AT T E R S Too Many Cooks How to manage financial aid programs that involve multiple offices By Kathy Kurz, Jim Scannell, and Samantha Veeder F INANCIAL AID OFFICERS act as stewards for many different aid sources. As such, they are responsible for ensuring that “donor” requirements are satisfied, whether that donor is the federal government, an individual who has established an endowment fund, an academic department, the athletic department, or the college itself making unfunded aid resources available to help meet enrollment goals. Working with each aid source has a unique set of challenges and often involves the financial aid office collaborating with other members of the campus community to make it happen. GOVERNMENTAL “DONORS” Many in the academy are aware of the struggles the financial aid office has in staying current with new, ever changing, federal and state legislation regarding financial aid. Less well known, however, are the challenges of keeping up with internal changes that have implications for institutional compliance with federal and state regulations. Some of the most significant audit findings we have seen occurred when financial aid officers were out of the loop— when a new academic program or new site was added, or when nonstandard academic terms were implemented, for example. To avoid such issues, and to ensure that all academic programs and off-site locations are eligible for federal and/or state aid, it’s important to make sure the financial aid office is consulted when changes to program offerings or even delivery modes are being considered. In addition, to meet the regulatory re- Development officers working with donors on gift parameters must keep aid strategies in mind. quirements at the individual student level, the financial aid office must rely on the receipt of timely and accurate information from other offices—particularly the registrar’s office. For example, effective and ongoing communication between these two offices is necessary to complete satisfactory academic progress reviews, especially when grade changes occur after the fact. Another common issue that we have observed occurs when reconciling the status and processing of required forms for international students who may have mistakenly filed the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as eligible noncitizens. In these cases and others, the financial aid office is responsible for maintaining compliance yet is dependent on other offices for required information. ENDOWMENT AND ANNUAL FUND DONORS In order for the stewardship of donated funds to be managed effectively, it is critical that the financial aid, finance, and development offices work closely together. Without a shared understanding of timelines, policies, and strategies between these critical offices, institutions run the risk of inefficiently managing institutional aid and/or disappointing donors or students or both. Given that these three offices often report to three different senior staff members, effective communication and collaboration is even more challenging. When development officers work with a donor to define the parameters of a gift, they need to keep in mind current aid strategies to ensure that the funds can be used to replace unfunded expenditures wherever possible. Similarly, the finance office needs to understand the timing of the awarding cycle so that its staff can inform the financial aid office of the funds available in endowments, and do so early enough for those funds to be included in initial award letters, rather than added on after the fact. When selecting recipients, the financial aid office needs to be sensitive to the goals and timelines of the development office, ensuring that the students selected will not only meet the criteria but also will write an effective thank-you note and “present” well at a donor dinner. Bringing representatives of these three offices together at least once a semester can help ensure Kathy Kurz and Jim Scannell are partners in the enrollment management consulting firm Scannell & Kurz. Samantha Veeder, formerly the director of Financial Aid at Hobart and William Smith Colleges (N.Y.), is the firm’s senior consultant. They can be reached via their website, March 2008 | 33

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of University Business - March 2008

University Business - March 2008
College Index
Company Index
Advisory Board
Editor's Note
Stats Watch
Sense of Place
EduComm Insert
Financial Aid
Money Matters
Human Resources
Higher One Insert
Community College
Cadets on Campus
Keeping an Eye on the Network
Sizing Up Second Life
Endowment Management
What's New
Calendar of Events
End Note

University Business - March 2008