Electronic financial aid applications more efficient

The U.S. Department of Education issued a five-year plan last week detailing technological initiatives to streamline financial-aid delivery.
The 16-page report, released by the department’s financial aid office, prioritizes how student-aid delivery costs can be reduced.
Most of the office’s budget is spent reviewing student-aid requests. It costs more than $40 to process one paper application. But electronic applications cost less than $2 to review, according to the report.
Because college costs will probably continue to increase, more financial-aid applications are also likely to be submitted, the office’s chief operating officer, Greg Wood, noted in the report.
“Those hard facts compel us to move aggressively away from pushing paper and toward electronic transactions, which provide the kind of modern service our customers expect at a vastly reduced unit cost,” Wood stated.
Money saved on processing student applications could instead be spent on computer upgrades, according to the proposed initiative.
At the University, a computer glitch earlier this fall delayed distribution of about $20 million in financial aid to 10,700 students. Officials have offered students interest-free loans to cover expenses temporarily.
Nancy Sinsabaugh, interim director of the University’s Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid, said she welcomes the proposed changes.
“We applaud the department’s initiative,” Sinsabaugh said. “We think it will make it easier to get financial aid to students.”
With more than 35,000 University students requesting financial aid each year, Sinsabaugh said electronic applications would make disbursement much more efficient.

Bryan Keogh welcomes comments at [email protected] He can also be reached at (612) 627-4070 x3232.