Innovative Financial Aid Solutions for Colleges and Universities Maintaining an efficient, compliant, and service-oriented financial aid operation is no small task for colleges and universities. Yet the need to do so has never been greater. Having a high-functioning financial aid office plays a key role in helping schools meet their strategic enrollment goals, while also avoiding potential compliance liabilities. With more than 20 years of financial aid consulting expertise, The Evans Consulting Group, Inc. (ECG) understands these demands. Our services are designed to help schools optimize their financial aid operations and related student services by implementing smart solutions. We provide support in these core areas: • Assessment & Compliance • General Consulting • Interim Management • Financial Aid Processing Assessment & Compliance Operational Review This comprehensive assessment includes an evaluation of the people, processes, and technology that are part of a school’s financial aid operations. Following the operational review, we provide schools with a customized action plan to reduce compliance risks, improve efficiencies, and streamline the flow of paper and electronic data. Similar to a federal program review, our service begins with an on-campus visit during which we will interview staff, and review institutional eligibility documents, policies and procedures, and student files. In addition, we analyze the staffing level and expertise in the financial aid office, examine how operations are coordinated at the institution, and evaluate the school’s general use of technology to support financial aid processing. By conducting an inventory of existing policies and procedures and reviewing how the policies and procedures are applied in a sampling of student files, we can help uncover any processing gaps or compliance shortfalls. We will then provide detailed recommendations to help put your school on the right track for meeting regulatory requirements and best practices in the financial aid operations.
ECG’s operational review service provides a preventive risk assessment before your next audit or program review. Audit & Program Review Resolution Responding to an audit or program review can be time consuming, particularly if your school is required to complete a file reconstruction or implement other corrective actions. With our hands-on campus experience and subject matter expertise covering regulatory and compliance issues, we can help your school resolve findings and reduce potential liabilities from an audit or program review.
Beforehand, we will help prepare the files and materials required by the auditing firm or program reviewer. During the site visit, we can provide on-campus support to answer questions from the auditor or federal officials. After the site visit has concluded, we will assist with: • Reviewing findings cited in the audit report or program review determination • Researching regulatory issues • Performing any required file reconstructions • Designing and implementing corrective actions • Preparing the school’s response to the U.S. Department of Education, including appeals Our audit and program review resolution service will allow your financial aid staff to focus on the important tasks of administering financial aid for your students and help minimize the extra pressure from these periodic reviews. Consumer Disclosure Assessment Schools are required to disclose a broad range of information for students and families, updated annually, and report certain data to the U.S. Department of Education each year. Under this service, we will complete a thorough inventory and risk assessment of your school’s current practices related to consumer disclosures and reporting. The mandate to disclose consumer information and related data affects several different areas of a school and failure to meet these requirements has been cited as a top audit/program review finding. As a final deliverable for this service, we will design a customized matrix that can be updated annually to help track your school’s ongoing compliance with consumer disclosure and reporting requirements. Policies & Procedures Development Maintaining up-to-date policies and procedures is not only a compliance requirement for the financial aid office, it is also essential for helping ensure that the financial aid staff processes aid consistently. Even so, for many schools, finding time to document their financial aid policies and procedures is an ongoing challenge.
ECG will review and assess your school’s policies and procedures to determine if all compliance areas are adequately covered and whether the documentation meets minimum federal requirements. We can also assist with drafting school-specific policy statements and procedural documentation, including system documentation, and provide strategies for updating the information on an annual basis. General Consulting Workflow Process Review Financial aid processing can be cumbersome and, if not properly structured, it may result in delayed services to students and parents. When funds are delayed, students may not be able to attend an institution. ECG can identify the root cause of processing delays—whether procedural, operational, or systems-related—design an improvement plan, and provide implementation assistance. By reviewing the overall lifecycle of a typical student file and tracking the milestone events, we can compare the school’s current workflow against industry standards and benchmarks. We will then recommend and assist with implementing system upgrades, training, or other services, as needed, to improve the quality and timeliness of financial aid services to students. Systems Implementation Deploying a new student information system (SIS) requires careful planning, and core knowledge about critical interfaces and processing requirements. A poorly planned implementation can be costly in both dollars and staff resources, greatly reducing the return on investment (ROI) for your school. ECG has the expertise to help. We will assist with creating a business requirements document for the new system and outline all required planning activities to ensure a successful relationship between the school and the software vendor. We can also assist with developing a project charter that details tasks and task ownership to ensure accountability for the vendor, as well as the users, in order to meet deliverables and milestones for the project. We will work with school officials to establish and maintain a budget monitoring system to ensure the proper level of senior management approval and controls. We will also develop recommendations to enhance the ability of your school to integrate your current SIS with other systems and services across offices and divisions. Regulatory Resource Busy financial aid professionals often don’t have the time to research regulatory issues pertaining to day-to-day financial aid processing. And while professional listservs and other forums can be a great resource, sometimes school staff may need to consult with an independent subject matter expert. ECG can provide consultation and support, on an as-needed basis, covering regulatory issues. All of our consultants have hands-on experience in financial aid administration, averaging approximately 20 years. In addition, our senior staff includes policy experts with leadership experience at the U.S. Department of Education and the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA). Other General Services From helping to update a school’s program participation to conducting a special file review, our staff provides customized solutions for all areas of the financial aid operations – just let us know what you need! Here are some examples of specialized services we have provided in the past: • Establishing or updating a school’s eligibility to participate in the federal student aid (FSA) programs • Reviewing staff compensation plans • Evaluating student information systems, third-party contracts, and other strategic business decisions • Conducting an independent file review based on a student dispute. Interim Management Interim Financial Aid Director The director of financial aid is a key position, and turnover can disrupt a school’s overall operations. Under our interim management services, we will assign an experienced consultant to serve as an interim director or fill another supervisory position, helping ensure uninterrupted financial aid services for your students and continued leadership for your staff until a permanent replacement is in place. Our consultants are all full-time employees (not contract workers) with former on-campus experience, typically at the director or associate director level. On average, each of our consultants has approximately 20 years of work experience in financial aid or student accounts. We can also assist with the recruitment and selection of a permanent replacement and design a transition plan for the new director. Interim Staffing/Processing Support Need extra help during a peak financial aid processing season? Along with our interim management service, our consultants are available to work on site or remotely to assist with short-term financial aid processing tasks. Many schools have to do more these days with less staff. While hiring permanent staff may not be feasible, you don’t have to sacrifice quality student service especially during busy times of the year. Our trained financial aid professionals can step in and help you get over the hurdle of processing backlogs by providing knowledgeable, short-term staffing assistance—helping to ensure the delivery of financial aid funds for your students. Financial Aid Processing We will establish secure access to the student information system used by your school and process transactions directly in the financial aid module.
Our services include: • Document Tracking & Follow-up • Processing Institutional Student Information Records (ISIRs) • Verification • Awarding, Packaging, & Notification • Financial Aid Counseling • Pre-Disbursement Service • Federal Grant Processing • Student Loan Management • Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) Monitoring • Return to Title IV (R2T4) Processing • Reconciliation • Quality Assurance/Control • System Maintenance & Support/New Year Set-Up/Configuration Reviews
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