UW Information Technology

February 28, 2020

Latest financial aid enhancements better reflect students’ dynamic living situations

Students talk under umbrella

In the first step towards a substantial improvement to provide students with the right financial aid as their living and school situations change, the Office of Student Financial Aid (OSFA) has moved from annual to quarterly student cost calculations.

OSFA is also expected to switch from annual to quarterly awards for student financial aid later this year, achieving an important milestone for the Financial Aid Modernization project.

The changes give expanded capabilities to OSFA so it can more accurately estimate a student’s expected costs during a school year, said Stephanie Wang, a business system analyst with UW-IT’s Student Program. UW-IT and OSFA are partnering in the modernization project.

“Ultimately, the shift from annual to quarterly costs and awards will allow these student inputs to change and be adjusted on a quarter-by-quarter basis to better match the realities of the student experience,” Wang said.

“In annual costs and awards, only one set of student inputs can be considered, which are assumed to extend through the entire academic year,” Wang said, such as the same living conditions and attending all quarters full-time. But more and more students today don’t fit this model, and when they need to report a change in their situations, OSFA counselors have to manually recalculate the numbers.

“By being able to accommodate these changes through our financial aid system in an automated way, our goal is to greatly reduce the manual effort invested by financial aid counselors today who adjust and recalculate costs and awards by hand,” Wang said.

Kay Lewis, executive director of financial aid, said “this initial step forward will prepare the system so we can automate it to make changes as the student’s status changes, reducing the need for financial aid counselors to intervene.”

“UW-IT and OSFA have put a great deal of effort into this re-structure, and work will continue over the rest of the year to connect the quarterly costs with the rest of the planned modernization enhancements,” Lewis said. “Students may not see the full effect yet, but the implementation of quarterly costs is an important start to our long-term system improvements.”

By reducing manual efforts, the ultimate goals are to increase student counseling hours, reduce compliance risk, decrease the risk of errors, and greatly improve the student experience.