Whether by “waving” our flags or by “waiving” our tuition, higher education proudly supports our military veteran students. However, current federal regulations make it difficult to offer quality customer service to this student population.
I imagine colleges view their veterans’ processing as the proverbial “square peg/round hole” dilemma: how to do you fit very specific, but ever changing, federal regulations that define your business processes into the confines of a (mostly) “vanilla” student information system, while still adhering to your own governing body’s policies and audit requirements? There certainly is no easy answer.
I’ve heard that same woeful complaint in every Alliance Student Financials Birds of a Feather session I’ve attended since the Post 911/Chapter 33 Benefit Program was introduced in 2009. The most common themes of those discussions seem to be:
- The federal government changed its regulations after the Chapter 33 program was live for a couple of years, and this affected the business processes colleges already had established.
- Often, the differing focuses of college academic units and financial units are at odds with each other, and the results can be strained working relationships, inefficient processes and less than stellar customer service.
- Colleges have developed too many labor intensive, manual processes in an attempt to manipulate transactional data to meet federal and internal policies and requirements… resulting in a lack of staff to manage and maintain all those manual processes.
- What works for one college doesn’t work for another – there is no “one-size-fits-all” answer.
- Global technical solutions aren’t being released quickly enough to help colleges.
It’s a good thing the higher education industry is known for freely sharing ideas and resources, because I imagine it would be a challenge for a single institution to compile and implement a list of “best practices” without relying on insight and input from their peers. Of course every institution has its challenges driven by their own organizational structure, the size of their veteran population and their own internal requirements, but when you get right down to it, every college with a veterans’ population is struggling with the same general “square peg/round hole” problem.
So, what can we do to help each other? That was the question I posed to my client, Northern Virginia Community College. The answer was easy: offer a roundtable discussion dedicated to just one topic – veterans’ benefits processing. Let’s call on the people who are trying to tackle the same challenges we are, and ask them to help walk us through what works for their institutions – and what doesn’t. We’re hoping the result will be a lively audience participation session … like a mini Birds of a Feather session with just one topic and a hundred co-presenters.
At Alliance 2014, Kathy Vessey will be co-presenting a session on this topic with Bridget Johnson, Director of Financial Services for Northern Virginia Community College, titled: Veterans’ Benefits Roundtable Discussion on Monday, Mar 10, 2014 (01:45 PM – 02:45 PM).