Overseeing the financial aid office is a daunting task with many possible points of failure and a whole new vocabulary. When the office is not running at optimum health, errors and omissions will appear in audits or program reviews by the U.S. Department of Education.
Such financial aid office trouble can result in great cost to the institution.
What are the symptoms that such costs are on the horizon?
- Complaints from students that they cannot get the help needed to complete the financial aid application process. This could lead to lower enrollments.
- Serious delays in student funding.
- The business office is unable to obtain information regarding a student’s status in the financial aid process.
- The business office is unable to obtain projections of future months’ cash flow.
- The institution receives warning letters from the U.S. Department of Education National Student Data System that Enrollment Reports are inaccurate or not being received. Frequently, however, the federal office receiving the reports posts the data a day or two late, and the letter is automatically sent.
- The institution receives warning letters from COD that the institution’s Federal Pell or Federal Direct Loan account is out of balance for prior or current years. The current year could be a minor situation which will self-correct because data is in constant transition. A prior year out of balance could indicate omissions or oversights on the part of the financial aid office or the prior year reconciliation remains under review. For example, the 2015/16 Direct Loan record is not completely closed until July 30, 2017.
- The institution’s annual audit reveals errors or omissions in the financial aid process. Most common findings are errors in verification of comment code resolution.
- Audit reports indicate errors in the Return of Title IV Funds (R2T4) process. Submissions are incorrect or late or not done at all.
- Files in the financial aid office are disorganized and not secure.
- The institution’s firewalls protecting sensitive computer data are out of date or incomplete.
- Constant turnover in the financial aid staff may be a symptom of a disorganized office, lack of adequate training, or just frustration with all of the rules and regulations in the financial aid process. Turnover must be addressed. It may be time to do more thorough screening of new hires.
It is dangerous to ignore financial aid office trouble. How many of these symptoms does your financial aid office manifest? For how long? What is being done to restore optimum health, and is it working?
When self-medication doesn’t alleviate the pain, it’s time to consider a professional third-party financial aid servicer.