In the ever-changing environment of higher education, updates to financial aid policy are not an uncommon occurrence. However, the unprecedented impacts of COVID-19 have created challenges for this financial aid year and years to come. Oracle Student Financial Planning (SFP) is helping institutions navigate these difficult times. But first, let us start by describing the current financial aid situation higher education institutions are facing.
In the spring/summer of 2020, the Federal CARES Act will provide higher education institutions with approximately $14 billion in aid. Roughly $6.3 billion of this aid is allocated for distribution to students who are impacted financially by COVID-19. The funds that institutions receive is based largely on their number of full-time, Pell Grant-eligible students. Institutions are responsible for determining which students receive CARES Act funds, according to the U.S. Department of Education.
Institutions need to formulate a plan to identify qualifying student recipients and disburse the CARES Act funds once received from the federal government. Without further guidance from the government, however, institutions may be hesitant to identify an approach. Potential approaches vary widely and include:
- using an application process to determine individual student circumstances and Professional Judgment (PJ)
- leveraging students’ expected family contribution (FAFSA EFC)
- proportionally adjusting the amount for students by their percentage of online study before COVID-19
- identifying the students most impacted in the final years of school (i.e., a junior or senior in need who might be close to lifetime aid maximums)
This is uncharted higher education waters at its best! However, institutions can adapt quickly for COVID-19 and similar situations with the flexibility and automation provided in Oracle Student Financial Planning (SFP) Cloud Service.
SFP empowers financial aid professionals to manage each student’s financial plan individually, automatically, and in real-time. For schools, this provides visibility into a student’s entire program and supports better-informed financial decisions and optimized outcomes. Students can see how academic changes directly affect their financial aid in real-time.
A major benefit of SFP is its ability to support remote processing via Cloud services. SFP has a fully integrated and device-responsive student portal that provides student self-service and document management without the student having to step foot on campus. For example, SFP could allow a student to submit a COVID-19 PJ document requesting additional need due to COVID-19 circumstances that impact financial need. An administrator could immediately review this document in SFP and identify if the student is eligible for CARES Act funding based on embedded data (metadata) the student provides when submitting the document. SFP automation enables schools to repackage student populations and leverage fund allocation according to their selected approach to the distribution of CARES Act funding.
COVID-19 provides a real-life example that demonstrates why institutions should strive to be more flexible, adaptable, and accessible remotely. SFP helps higher education institutions leverage technology to check all these boxes and support student success for years to come.
Sierra-Cedar’s dedicated Higher Education practice has maintained a decades-long commitment to serving colleges and universities with enterprise application support services, including implementations, upgrades, and hosting.
Sierra-Cedar is currently engaged in the implementation of Oracle Student Financial Planning at two NCAA Division 1 schools (one is Big 10, the other MEAC). Both schools also are moving to Oracle 9.2 Campus Solutions as part of their SFP implementation. For more information about SFP and Sierra-Cedar services, send an email to our Higher Ed team.