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Financial Aid Strategies You Can Explain: Where do you draw the line? - Monday Musings

By Jennifer Wick on Feb 18, 2013

The pressure for transparency and disclosure are only likely to increase – consider the implications carefully.

Tags: enrollment strategies, financial aid


Financial aid counselors need to know how to talk about financial aid awards.In estimating enrollment behavior there are variables that are typically significant, such as financial need, total grant, quality measures, intended major, distance from campus, etc. Although the set of variables and their magnitudes are specific to each institution, there are some indicators that are usually more predictive than others. In addition, students that help further an institution’s mission and goals, such as increasing quality or diversity, tend to be at a premium in the pool and often are candidates for additional institutional aid. Families typically understand that this is the case. They may not like it, but they understand it. Explaining that different institutions have different profiles, goals and resources as the reason a student received differing award amounts from competing schools is not always an easy conversation, but doable.

Then there are other variables, such as if the student visited campus, or the position the student listed your institution on the FAFSA, that are strongly predictive, so much so that they can mask the influence of most or all other factors. Some institutions use this information in deciding whether or not to admit a student from the wait-list or how to respond to an appeal for more aid, but where do you draw the line? Do you use this information as part of the awarding strategy?

Here’s the litmus test: can you look a student in the eye and honestly explain the awarding policy? Or would describing why she received a smaller scholarship than her friend make you uncomfortable? Think beyond the net price calculator, what if you were required to publish all the details of your awarding strategies on the institution’s website?

The pressure for transparency and disclosure are only likely to increase – consider the implications carefully.

Image © iStockphoto.


Jennifer WickAbout the author: Enrollment Management Consultant Jennifer Wick joined the Scannell & Kurz team in May 2011. She manages the Financial Aid Strategy Tool (FAST) and provides consulting on a wide range of enrollment management topics from admissions to retention.

Jennifer comes to S&K from Clarkson University where she served for nine years as Director of New Student Financial Assistance. Her experience encompasses both financial aid and admissions responsibilities, specializing in balancing financial aid strategies with enrollment targets and retention concerns. She has conducted enrollment data analysis, managed regional territories, and created successful financial aid strategies for targeted demographics. In addition, Jennifer has a keen interest in retention, which includes predictive model development to identify at-risk first-year students.

Jennifer earned a B.S. and M.S. in Physics, both from Clarkson University. You can connect with her on LinkedIn.


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