During the last several years, our office began scanning student documents. This requires fewer staples and more paperclips. We can’t put stapled documents into a scanner and of course we need to keep documents together. Suddenly, I noticed that I needed larger paper clips. This summer, I’ve had to use giant ones! You see those paper clips are keeping together entire lives; way beyond verification forms and tax transcripts. We have copies of birth certificates, social security cards, court documents, government issued identification, petitions for dependency overrides, letters from student teachers, mentors, guidance counselors, requests for reviews of special circumstances, appeals for additional student funding and sadly death certificates. In some cases, all are for one student.
How did the Office of Financial Aid become the repository for so many documents? It seems to me, that we have, in our desire to ensure that funds are appropriately awarded, reached a place where we verify and document every detail of a student’s life; from “identity to purpose’, and then some. This task is no easier for us, than for the student as we get lost in and amongst the weeds trying to decipher what is conflicting information in those documents or the definition of one or another term. But I digress. That paper clip also reminds me that we aren’t anywhere near simplification. I realize, that I’m not sharing any ground breaking news. It’s been said before. As we tumble head first into another academic year and the pile of documents grows; however, I feel compelled, from my small perch to encourage you to work together constructively to improve this process.
As Financial Aid officers, we are called to be good stewards of the funds we administer. We also need to advocate for students, share our expertise and insight with those that are directly working to make things happen and support each other. Fall is almost here. Remember to renew your membership. Join a committee and become part of the process. There is so much beyond verification that we need to tackle such as improving and helping students understand borrowing and repayment, managing and explaining parts of terms, withdrawals, student academic progress and more recently the impact of degree audits on the financial aid awarding cycle.
P.S. I do hope to use smaller paperclips again, someday.