Financial Aid Process Management

Overview

The Financial Aid process in Veracross consists of about seven phases. The term phases is used instead of steps or stages to imply a fluid state to the process flow. Each school manages their Financial Aid process slightly differently. There are many contributing factors, such as the close of the Admission year or the publishing of Enrollment contracts, that can potentially impact the Financial Aid process. Because of this the module is designed as a fluid system that provides tracking management which can easily be configured and utilized according to each school’s needs.

The phases of the Veracross Financial Aid process are roughly as follows:

  1. Financial Aid Application created.
  2. Financial Aid Application Checklist items completed by school.
  3. Family Financial Information submitted (usually through third-party service).
  4. Financial Aid Applications are evaluated and families’ aid needs are assigned.
  5. School awards Financial Aid through Award Components.
  6. School distributes Financial Aid Decision Letters to families.
  7. Families accept or decline the Financial Aid offer.

Details of each phase, such as how Financial Aid Application records are created, are outlined below. Schools should feel free to modify the process to fit best with their Financial Aid workflow.

Phase 1: Financial Aid Application

The Financial Aid process begins with the Financial Aid Application record. This record is the central place in which all financial aid information is tracked for one admissions applicant or student. As each phase of financial aid is completed, the school can update that portion of the application record. It includes details on the person applying, a checklist item of requirements or financial aid award considerations the status of the application, current financial aid package details, SSS data, and links to other important records such as the Admissions Application and Enrollment Detail record. An application record must be entered for each applicant or current student requesting financial aid.

  • Applicants
    For new students coming to the school the financial aid process begins with the family’s indication that they intend to apply for financial aid if accepted to the school. This usually appears as a checkbox on the Admissions Application. Schools can then enter a Financial Aid Application record to capture that family’s intention to apply for aid. This record will then be used to track the process of applying for financial aid. The Financial Aid Application record is added automatically or manually as explained below.
  • Current Students
    For returning students, the financial aid process begins when schools start the financial aid season. At this time families of returning students are able to submit their financial aid information to the school (usually through a third-party system such as School & Student Services (SSS)). Although families will submit their information outside of Veracross, this process can be tracked using the Financial Aid Application record. This record is added automatically or manually as explained below. Note: It’s important to run “Start Re-Enrollment” before starting to add or manage Financial Aid applications for students for the coming school year. When an FA application is added, the system only “automatically” synchronizes values like Grade Level, Student Group Applying For, Resident Status Applying For, etc. if the Financial Aid Application “Year” equals the student’s “Year Applying For,” which gets updated when “Start Re-Enrollment” is run. If the student’s Year Applying For isn’t updated for re-enrollment purposes, the FA Application might have blanks in fields like Grade Level, etc. when added.

Automatic Entry

There are three ways in which Financial Aid Application records can be entered automatically into the system depending on the type of school constituent requesting aid.

Admissions Applicants – Nightly Process

The primary way in which a Financial Aid Application record is entered into the system for an applicant is through the Veracross nightly process. Application records will be created automatically for school constituents that:

  • Have indicated their intention to apply for financial aid on the Admissions Application record,
  • Are applying for the current active admissions year, and
  • Have an Admissions Application with the status of “in process,” “accepted,” or “acceptable.”

Current Students – Financial Aid Copying Procedures

Financial Aid Applications may be generated automatically for the coming year based on the students’ current year Financial Aid Application records. Schools have two options for copying current records:

  1. Copy Current Student FA Applications w/o Amount
    All Financial Aid Application records with status “Accepted” will be copied, but the financial aid amount information will not be copied into the amount fields. Prior year amount information will still be accessible from the “Prior Awards” field on the Financial Aid Application record.
  2. Copy Current Student FA Applications w/Amount
    All Financial Aid Application records with status “Accepted” will be copied, and the financial aid amount information will be retained on the application record. This includes all Award Components that made up the “Total Award Amount” figure.

Run each copy FA Amount procedure from the Action menu  on the Financial Aid homepage. Financial Aid Application records will be created for all students who have a Financial Aid Application record for the previous year and are eligible to re-enroll.

Veracross Import Tool

Veracross supports the import of data from the SSS third-party service into Financial Aid Application records. Follow the steps below to upload SSS information into Veracross:

  1. Export data from SSS into excel spreadsheet.
  2. Choose the specific columns the school would like to keep, and delete others.
  3. Create a new column with header “person_fk” and add Veracross Person ID to each row.
  4. Go to import.veracross.com/SCHOOLNAME and login.
  5. Click New Data Import.
  6. Select “Admissions SSS” from dropdown.
  7. Choose file, SSS spreadsheet.
  8. When ready, click “Import”
  9. A message will display if import was successful.

Notes:

  • The imported information will be inserted onto the person’s Financial Aid Application Record, and will be displayed under the tab “Financial Details”. Every column from the spreadsheet will create a corresponding row.
  • Veracross only uses columns with numeric values in them (ie parent_offer_to_pay), not columns that contain text (ie last_name).
  • If there are 2 households for a given student, the two rows with the same Veracross Person ID will create two columns on the person’s Financial Aid Application Record.
  • There is a field on the Financial Aid Application Record that records the time and date the data was imported.
  • If a value is updated on the SSS Spreadsheet and imported into Veracross again, the values will not change on the Financial Aid Application Record as the rows become static once inserted.
  • To edit values that have already been imported, schools need to delete the row containing the old values and then import the data again.

Manual Entry

Adding a New Financial Aid Application Record

Add a new Financial Aid Application record using the “Add an Application” link on the Financial Aid homepage. Enter the applicant’s name and click “Add Financial Aid Application” record. Other fields on the “General” tab under the Applicant, Admissions, and Enrollment sections will automatically populate based on the applicant’s admission record or if a current student the enrollment record. As the applicant progresses through the financial aid process use the fields in the Financial Aid section to track their progress. Any notes related to the application at any stage in the financial aid process may be tracked in the “Notes” field.

Financial Aid Application Statuses

The “Application Status” represents the current stage of the application. Because the application represents the financial aid process from start to finish, it is important that this field is regularly updated. Default statuses include:

BEFORE DECISION

  • In Process: There are outstanding checklist items that must be completed before the family can be considered for financial aid.

SCHOOL’S DECISION

  • Offered: the school offers the financial aid award to the family.
  • Complete: the school has everything they need from the applying family in order for a financial aid award decision to be made.

Note: When a student/applicant completes (Re)Enrollment, the financial aid application status will be updated automatically from “Offered” to “Accepted”.

  • Waitlisted: the family is placed on the waitlist for financial aid consideration.
  • Did Not Qualify: the school determines the family is not qualified to receive financial aid.

FAMILY’S DECISION

  • Accepted: the family accepts the award offer.

OTHER

  • Soft Accepted: the family has tentatively accepted the awards offer, and may need a few days to consider it.
  • Appealed: the family would like to change the award amount. This most often means one of two scenarios: 1) the family is not satisfied with the award amount offered and appeals for a different amount, or 2) the family did not qualify for financial aid and appeals for reconsideration.
  • Declined: the family declines the award offer.
  • On Hold: the family’s financial aid award process is on hold.
  • Closed: the financial aid process was not completed for the application.
    Note: for Admissions Applicants a Financial Aid Application record will be closed automatically if the applicant is denied admission, withdraws their application, or if the accepted applicant declines to enroll.

Phase 2: Financial Aid Application Checklist

Once a family has indicated their intention to apply for Financial Aid, schools have the option of making available a checklist that includes all the necessary items that must be completed in order for the family to be considered for Financial Aid. If a Financial Aid Checklist is configured it will appear on the “Checklist” tab of the Financial Aid Application record. As each item on the checklist is completed by the family, the school can manually mark each complete. The “Date Completed” field will populate automatically when each checklist item has been marked as “Complete”. Once all checklist items are complete, the Financial Aid Application is ready to be evaluated for financial aid consideration.

The Financial Aid Application Checklist is optional. It is up to the school whether they would like to manage the family’s process through the checklist or not.

Phase 3: Family Financial Information

Can occur as part of or in place of Phase 2.

In order for a school to make informed decisions about which applicants should receive financial aid, many rely on a third-party service that collects and analyzes a family’s finances. This usually provides an indication of how much the family is able to contribute towards tuition and allows a school to determine how much an applicant would need in financial aid. Data received from such a service can then be imported into Veracross, updating existing Financial Aid Application records or creating new records as needed. Regardless of the approach to collecting a family’s financial information, this phase of the financial aid process usually involves an analysis of what a family is able to contribute in order for an aid amount to be determined.

For schools using the Financial Aid Application Checklist, completing the information from a third-party service may be one of the checklist items.

Veracross and SSS

The most common third-party service used by many schools is School & Student Services (SSS). Data may be imported from SSS into Veracross using the Veracross Data Import tool. See the section above on adding Financial Aid Application records using the Importer for more details.

Phase 4: Application Evaluation

The family’s financial aid application is now considered complete. Schools can update the “Application Status” field to “Complete” so they can track who is ready to be reviewed. To help facilitate this decision process, schools can use the “Tuition” and “Parental Contribution” fields located on the General and SSS tab of the Financial Aid Application record to determine the family’s need. Schools using SSS will obtain the “Parental Contribution” figure from the SSS data.

  • Tuition: the actual dollar amount it cost to attend the school that year.

The system will automatically populate the ‘tuition’ field on a financial aid application based on two triggers:

  1. When a Financial Aid application is initially inserted, an insert trigger will set Tuition to the correct amount (assumes catalog item rates are for upcoming school year).
  2. When grade level, resident status, or student group values on FA applications are changed, an update trigger will set the tuition to the correct amount (again assumes catalog item rates are for the upcoming school year).
  • Parental Contribution: the dollar amount in which the parents are expected to contribute towards tuition.
  • Calculated Need: the difference between the tuition and the parental contribution (calculated field).
  • Need: the dollar amount of financial aid the school determines the family needs (may be the same or different than the Calculated Need).

Phase 5: Financial Aid Award

After all financial aid applications have been reviewed schools can begin awarding financial aid to families. This process involves determining how much aid will be given to selected applicants, how that aid will be awarded (i.e. where is the money coming from), and what it will be used for. Schools can build a family’s financial aid award using Award Components.

Award Components are amounts that are awarded to the family as part of their total financial aid offer. Components can be monetary or non-monetary depending on the type of award being received. An applicant’s award offer may be made up of several Award Components, each contributing to the overall “Total Award Amount,” made up of several Award Components with some contributing to the overall “Total Award Amount,” or made up of one Award Component that represents the family’s entire financial aid offer. Whether or not an Award Component is counted in the “Total Award Amount” is dependent on the “Type” of award selected. See more about Award Type configuration to learn about how it is calculated into the “Total Award Amount” figure.

Award Components are added from the “Award Components” input grid on the Financial Aid Application record. Specify the following for each component added:

  1. Type: select from the dropdown menu where the money is coming from (e.g. grant, loan, stipend, or remission).
  2. Category: select from the dropdown menu what the award is for (e.g. tuition, room & board, books & supplies, etc.).
  3. Scholarship: if this component is being funded by a scholarship, associate the corresponding scholarship with the award.
  4. Merit: select whether this component is received based on merit (rather than strictly needs-based).
  5. Amount: enter the dollar amount of the component. If the Award Type has been configured to be included in the “Total Award Amount,” the amounts entered is this column will contribute to the overall awards offer. If the component is a non-monetary award, leave the Award field blank.
  6. Notes: enter any notes about the award.

As each Award Component is finalized lock the component by selecting the “Posted” checkbox for each Award component. This locks each component from being edited and prepares the application (now the record of the financial aid offer) to be presented to the family for consideration.

Phase 6: Financial Aid Award Offer and Letter to Family

When all Award Components are entered and the “Total Award Amount” is finalized the Financial Aid Application is ready to be sent as an awards offer. Update the “Application Status” to “Offered” if the family is receiving financial aid, “Denied” if they are not, etc. Schools can then send financial aid decision letters out to each family receiving aid.

Financial Aid Decision Letter

Financial aid decision letters, or offer letters, are configured using text templates. All text templates with the classification “Financial Aid” will appear for selection in the “Decision Letter Template” drop-down menu on the “Letter” tab. The appropriate financial aid specific text template may then be selected for use. If you have not configured Financial Aid specific text templates, contact your Account Manager to have them set up.

Each letter may be customized by adding text in the “Award Letter Text” field. Use the merge field in the corresponding financial aid text template to pull in the custom text from the “Award Letter Text” field. Schools may also pull in the Award Components table by including the merge field in the text template.

Letter Distribution

Each Financial Aid Application record receives a document browse page for their offer letter, accessible from the link in the “Financial Aid Decision Letter” field on the “Letter” tab. Schools can open this document, download it to pdf, and distribute it by mail or email.

Schools who use Veracross Online Enrollment or Online Re-Enrollment can include the Financial Aid Decision Letter as a homepage component on the Online Enrollment homepage. The component is informational only: There is no separate “Accept” or “Decline” option since the financial aid offer is “accepted” by accepting the offer of enrollment. Families with questions or concerns about the specific FA offer should contact the school directly. Learn more about the integration between Online (Re)Enrollment and the Financial Aid module.

Phase 7: Award Accepted/Declined by Family

The final phase of the Financial Aid process is the family making a decision about the financial aid offer presented by the school. Families can accept the offer, soft-accept, decline, or appeal for a different offer. When a family’s decision is known, the school can update the “Application Status” field to the appropriate status. To finalize this record for the current financial aid season, select the “Posted” checkbox on the “General” tab. No further edits will be allowed to the record.

For schools without Online (Re)Enrollment, awards will be accepted or declined via email, mail, or phone. For schools with Online (Re)Enrollment, accepting or declining a financial aid offer is accomplished by accepting or declining the enrollment offer (there is no “accept” or “decline” option that is separate from the overall offer).