DFA grows with Banner
It’s been more than a year since the Division of Financial Aid (DFA) began using Banner, and the transition has been a challenging one for its staff.
Long before the Banner Financial Aid module went into production Feb. 11, 2008, DFA staff members had to learn new business processes, load thousands of application records into the new system, and test and implement new “imaging” software in which paper documents are scanned and stored as digital files.
“It’s been some of the hardest work we’ve ever done here,” said DFA Executive Director Joyce Hall, “but our staff has really pulled together to make this work for us.”
DFA is now directing students to the myPurdue portal to retrieve information, where it’s more secure. For example, the department began sending out letters to almost 8,000 students in March requesting information for their financial aid applications, either to verify data already submitted or because information was missing. Returning students receive such messages only as e-mails, while new students receive both e-mails and paper letters, but they all refer students to myPurdue to see exactly what information Purdue needs to complete (or verify) their applications.
“We want to encourage incoming students to begin learning and using the portal’s self-service features,” Hall said.
Although the students still must mail back missing application and verification information on paper — and the data entered manually — these documents will be kept digitally using the new imaging application, Banner Document Management Suite (BDMS, previously known as Xtender).
Admissions was the first office to use this tool when it began scanning documents last September, and DFA began using it in February.
“We tested it with 2008-09 financial aid paperwork, but we’ll fully implement it for 2009-10,” says Marvin Smith, DFA senior associate director of office operations. “Right now we’re using BDMS as a paperless file system, and think it will allow us to make better use of our office and storage space.”
Smith was one of several DFA members who, while preparing for the Banner implementation, visited other universities to see how their financial aid offices have used imaging software. On a visit to the University of Illinois, Smith saw that its financial aid file room had been converted to a meeting room.
“Hopefully our filing area will be just as bare someday.”
Banner will help cut down on paper in other ways, too, he said. The first batch of financial aid award offers — about 8,000 letters to incoming freshmen — will be mailed out soon, with more to be sent over the coming weeks.
In the past, students needed to sign and mail back student loan forms to Purdue to accept their loan offers. Now all student loan aid is accepted online in myPurdue.
“That’s a lot less paper flooding our office,” Smith said, “and a lot less time having to deal with it. We may never be completely paperless, but we think students appreciate quick and easy online processes.”
Another application developed during Banner’s implementation has helped both the Admissions and DFA offices: the Financial Aid Estimator.
“We think this will prove to be quite a useful tool for students and parents,” Smith said, “especially high school seniors who need to decide which school to attend. It gives them a pretty clear picture not only of how much it will cost them to attend Purdue, but, even more important, how much aid they can expect to be offered.
Reports and analysis
DFA routinely provides reporting information to the Board of Trustees, the Indiana Commission for Higher Education, the U.S. Department of Education and others. Over the past year, DFA data and research staff have learned to use Cognos to extract financial aid data and information from Banner, and continue to refine reporting efforts.
“Financial aid information and analysis continues to be an important part of the strategic focus of Purdue,” said Carol Cooper, DFA senior associate director. “Learning how to extract financial aid data from the new Banner system has been challenging, but we’re getting better at it every day.”
A year of Banner
After more than a year of learning and growing with Banner, DFA staff members are looking forward to seeing the fruits of their labors.
“Now that a second year of award letters are going out, things seem to be falling into place,” Smith said. “Our next challenge will be awarding summer financial aid in Banner.
“Everyone in DFA and the Student Systems Competency Center has worked hard to make the transition to Banner a success. With a year of this under our belts, we are gratified at what we have accomplished in such a short amount of time, and hopeful that financial aid administration in Banner will get easier as we continue to learn and implement improvements.”