Creating a Connected Campus to Award More Scholarships and Improve Student Outcomes

As undergraduate enrollment continues to decline—one million fewer students enrolled in 2022 than in 2020*—colleges and universities must consider new ways to attract and retain students. With economic concerns among the most significant barriers to enrollment, scholarships can be a valuable tool in recruitment and retention efforts and can help drive college completion.

Disorganization, decentralization, and disconnection in scholarship administration all over the country lead to underutilized scholarship funds, a lack of stewardship efforts with major donors, and students not receiving the necessary aid to continue their education.

By creating a connected campus, institutions can streamline funds administration, improve relationships with key donors, and provide awards to more students. The right technology gives students greater visibility into available scholarships, highlights those for which they qualify, and makes it easier to apply. It can also alleviate manual processes for institutional stakeholders, improve communications, ensure data security, and provide insights into funds and disbursements. There are three steps to consider.

Create Cross-Functional Workflow

When a campus works cross-functionally, scholarships become more accessible and easier to award. There needs to be clear communication among the various offices, including admissions, financial aid, scholarship, development, and stewardship. Technology can streamline operations when systems are integrated and configured to improve communication among cross-functional teams and provide everyone with the information they need to get their job done. What does this mean for scholarships? Use a technology that everyone across campus can access with role-based segmentation, so each user easily views their areas of responsibility. A good award management system benefits both students and administrators.

Best Features for Students:

  • A portal that provides a unique view to each student, highlighting the scholarships for which they are most qualified and how to apply
  • Alerts for deadlines, incomplete tasks, and necessary steps to complete the application process
  • A centralized location to check application status, communications from review committees, and new opportunities

Best Features for Staff:

  • Central access to all scholarships, available amounts, recent donor agreements, and current scholarship qualifications
  • A centralized platform for managing dozens or even hundreds of scholarship applications, including a quick view of the number of qualified students for each award
  • Insights to guide donor discussions about adjusting their required qualifications to ensure full-fund utilization
  • Tools to promote available scholarships to qualified students
  • Ability to review applications online and see the progress of other reviewers to keep the awarding process on schedule
  • Facilitate communication between administrators, stewardship staff, applicants, and award recipients
  • Impactful reports to share scholarship recipient stories and steward donors

Ensure Your Organization is Mission-Aligned

Cross-functional technology is best implemented with a clear understanding of how the process should work, how to use the information stored in the system, and how to input essential data that will improve communication with other departments. One of the best examples of this concerning scholarships is to demonstrate the impact of funds as early as possible. Having a clear list of award recipients makes it very easy for those involved in stewardship efforts to reach out to students to collect thank-you letters or other information for donor stewardship without having to wait for an email or shared spreadsheet.

A mission-aligned process also means that everyone on campus is working towards the shared goals of full fund utilization and fiscal responsibility. Scholarship management software should help right-size and target awards to ensure the school is delivering on the commitment made to its students and donors. It should provide visibility into fund management to prevent over- or under-spending.

Keep Data Security Central

Data security is critical to creating a connected campus for scholarships and stewardship. Scholarship applications and student records contain a significant amount of sensitive data. Using secure technology with multi-factor authentication required to log in is the first step away from the paper processes on many campuses today, and that’s just a starting point. Using various user permissions within technology can ensure that the right people see enough information to do their jobs effectively, but student data remains secure. Technology that supports role-based segmentation is vital to creating a connected campus.

If you think your scholarship process is working, look more closely. Ask stakeholders in other departments if all the information they need is easily accessible to do their job. Determine if all scholarship funds on campus are being awarded each year or if money is left on the table. Consider how connecting your campus could improve your college’s completion rates.

Education is a human endeavor. The right technology can be a conduit through which schools can reach more students and make a greater impact on their lives.

*National Student Clearinghouse Research Center

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