At Financial Aid offices across the country, managing even the most essential reports and information can feel insurmountable. This was the case at Lansing Community College (LCC) in Lansing, Michigan, where Financial Aid employees were bogged down by ad hoc reports and unreliable data for years. But with a new enterprise reporting solution and some smart customization, LCC found a better way to find and analyze reports.
LCC is a public two-year college with about 17,500 students across three campuses. In the 2008 academic year, LCC implemented Banner by Ellucian® as its enterprise reporting software (ERP), but the college continued to have problems pulling reports because individual departments were pulling different figures from the ERP and couldn’t come to a consensus about what was accurate and what wasn’t. Every department had their own way of getting different information.
In 2009, LCC had enough of inconsistent data. The college implemented Argos, Evisions’ enterprise reporting solution, and centralized report development. The Financial Aid Office migrated 50 legacy reports to Argos, and staff members soon began writing new reports and dashboards with guidance from Evisions’ support team.
LCC’s “Financial Aid Dashboard,” which is now available on the Evisions’ CO-OP, was created as an administrative tool to give an overview of the whole office. It houses six tabs (Main, Awards and Disbursement, Staff Processing, Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) and Advising, Verification, and Document Processing,) with reports on everything from applicant information to FAFSA applications received. Now, not only can administrators access information at their fingertips in 15 seconds—no more waiting for other people to compile data for them—they can drill down and compare historical data for the last month, year, and four years. Data can be viewed in lists and as graphical displays, so information is that much easier to digest.
The Main tab is the first screen that users see when they open the dashboard, and it gives users commonly requested reports on program eligibility, Title IV returns, general FAFSA applicant information, and application volume—all by aid year. With this section of the dashboard, administrators can get many of their frequently asked questions answered. “It’s a comprehensive overview of what’s going on in our office right now in a number of areas,” Financial Aid Business Analyst Jessica Ashbrook says.
The Awards and Disbursement section of the Financial Aid Dashboard includes many of the most frequently requested figures in Financial Aid. It breaks down Offered, Authorized, and Paid awards and disbursements by fund source, type, and individual student in Banner. Such information is crucial to decision making and planning in the department.
Another major component of the Financial Aid Dashboard is the Staff Processing tab, which monitors staff time. With a simple query, administrators can see the documents and messages posted on student accounts in Banner to see staff activities at a given time. “If we wanted to know if March is a good time to do a project, we can look back at last month and get a trend to make decisions about how to leverage our staff in a particular way,” Ashbrook says. “We can see that this staff member was really busy but this staff member wasn’t.”
The SAP and Advising tab provides an overview of student document processing times in the office, as well as the academic progress of FAFSA awardees. The Financial Aid Office can keep itself in check with this tab, because it displays financial aid advising documents that still need processing. So if the office has promised a 2-week turnaround, dashboard users can see what documents are still outstanding and need immediate attention. Similarly, the Verification tab displays financial aid verification documents that need processing, as well as summary information about the number of students selected for verification, students whose verification has been completed, and those assigned federal verification.
The last tab of the dashboard, Document Processing, also displays information showing how the office is tackling incoming documents. The section pulls up details on Banner RRAAREQ documents that need attention from staff, with tracking codes, dates that the documents have been pending, and the number of students affected. This tab is especially helpful during peak times because it shows administrators the volume of documents needing action, and it ensures that the office is not holding back students.
With the Financial Aid Dashboard, the office is no longer wasting countless staff hours gathering one-off reports from multiple sources, or worrying that information is inaccurate. Today, with all their reports in one place, administrators are self-sufficient. They pull error-free reports when needed and analyze data to better serve students in the long term.
“Since we’ve implemented Argos and the Financial Aid Dashboard, the conversations have really changed,” Ashbrook says. “We have so much more information now that we are initiating conversations about our needs. We’re being proactive, and we’re sharing statistics readily. It’s really been a game-changer for us.”