Financial aid office move to Internet saves money, time

Amy Hackbarth

The University Office of Student Finance replaced paperwork and line waiting with the click of a mouse this fall when the office moved its financial aid process to the Web.

Students who receive financial aid can now apply for and accept their aid online rather than going to the financial aid office in Fraser Hall.

“We wanted to provide assistance for people who really need it and make financial aid more convenient for others,” said Nancy Sinsabaugh, director of student finance.

The office switched to the Web format during the summer. Sinsabaugh said 87 percent of the 16,785 students who receive financial aid used the Web to accept or deny their aid this fall.

“It’s pretty easy compared to going in and waiting in line,” said Chris Schwagerl, a psychology senior who used the Web to confirm his financial aid.

Sinsabaugh said the new process would save $80,000 a year in materials and salary. At that rate, the $250,000 cost of the new Web site will be paid off in three years.

She also said the new Web format will save one million sheets of paper this year and will cut the processing rate for aid forms from six weeks to four days.

Patty Harris, a coordinator for the Office of Student Finance, said fewer students come into the office now that the Web format is working.

“The people who do come in are much more well informed,” she said. “And when they call in, they say, ‘I saw this in my account, or I read this.’ They’re just more informed.”

Yet some worry this reliance on computers will scare off some technophobes. Schwagerl said he worried about people messing up their aid without having someone there to help them.

“There are a lot of people who aren’t very computer savvy,” he said. “Without someone there helping them it might be kind of hard for some people.”

Harris said people who have problems with their computers could still request paper copies of their forms at the financial office.

Sinsabaugh said she agreed some people will have to come into the office for “special circumstances,” but she said it will probably be only a minority of students.

“We like to think that 80 percent of those students can now process their financial aid without coming in,” she said. “It should be a win-win situation for everyone involved.”

Amy Hackbarth welcomes comments at [email protected]