ADMINISTRATIVE SUPPORT UNIT REVIEW SELF-STUDY
I. Mission and Functional Responsibilities
A1. What is the Mission of the unit?
Mission: The Office of Student Financial Aid awards financial assistance to eligible
students in support of their educational goals. We strive to provide timely service and a caring,
responsive environment for Georgia State University students.
A2. Is the mission consistent with the present missions and strategic plans of the division
and the University?
The mission of the Office of Student Financial Aid is congruent with the mission and strategic
plans of the Division of Enrollment Management and the University.
Vision: to create an undergraduate student body with a profile reflective of a top research
Mission: to guide students in their college experience from pre-admission through
The University is striving to become reputable for their student friendly enrollment
The Office of Student Financial Aid supports these goals through comprehensive use of
information technologies and effective administrative services.
A3. How is the mission communicated to unit staff and constituents?
The mission is communicated to staff and constituents through a myriad of actions. Management
leads by professional example, defining and communicating expectations to all staff. When hiring
new staff, only candidates who can best succeed in meeting the goals of the department are
chosen. During the hiring process the unit’s mission and goals are communicated while defining
the role of the staff member.
Unit staff meetings are held on a biweekly basis. The meetings serve as an opportunity for staff
updates, training, and informational sessions with other departments. Because change in financial
aid is a constant, most employees have the opportunity to gain different experiences, broaden their
base of knowledge, and participate in situations involving professional growth. The department
continues to promote retreats and professional development activities which build upon specific
capabilities supporting the success of the University mission.
Staff members are encouraged to participate on special project development teams, task forces or
committees. Not only does this foster a sense of empowerment and motivation, it provides staff
interaction within the campus community, allowing staff the occasion to communicate the unit’s
mission through projects of shared interest. Consequently, creating an enhanced campus
environment helps to solidify the University mission.
The entire staff worked to develop the unit’s mission and vision statement. The Mission and
Vison statements are printed on the cover of the departmental policies and procedures manual and
posted on the office bulletin board. We plan to display our mission and vision statements on our
web site in the near future.
B. What are the functional responsibilities of the unit, and to whom does the unit report?
The functional responsibilities of the unit secure, manage and provide funds in the form
of grants, loans, scholarships, and student employment to meet student’s educational expenses.
The Office of Student Financial Aid has the following core functions:
● Provide customer service to all prospective, continuing and returning students, parents
and third party agencies
Verification of financial aid applications to insure student eligibility
Administration and compliance of the Federal Direct Loan Programs
Awarding of Federal, State and Institutional aid according to applicable rules and
Determination of student financial aid eligibility for participation in Study Away
Technical support of SCT Banner’s Financial Aid Module
Administrative support of the Unit
The unit reports to the Associate Provost, Undergraduate Studies, Dr. William Fritz.
C. How does the unit compare with similar units at peer institutions?
Structurally, the Unit’s organization is similar to that of the Financial Aid Office at the University
of Georgia. The Financial Aid Office at the University of South Florida is structured in teams, as
we are hoping to be within the next three years. (Addendum I.C.I.I) Both of these staffs are
substantially larger than ours, and the gap appears to be disproportionate according to both the
number of students enrolled and the number receiving aid.
Georgia State University of University
University South Florida of Georgia
Staff Size 26.5 43.0 46.0
Enrollment 28,173 48,854 33,878
Total Aid 22,600 27,872 24,693
Aid Recipients 78% 57% 73%
Disbursed $122,128,235.00 $176,630,947.00 $164,128,150.00
Regrettably, our information from peer universities is very limited. We have made attempts to
contact numerous offices to gather specific information, but UGA and USF were the only two
responses received to date. However, in limited comparison to a number of other aid offices, our
counseling staff is small, relative to the number of students enrolled. (Addendum I.C.1.2) This
adversely affects our ability to deliver the quality of customer service desired.
II. Goals and Objectives
A1. What are the unit’s goals and objectives?
Provide follow up to student inquiries within 24 hours
Implement Quality Assurance program to replace federal verification
Achieve 100% “FAFSA on the Web” application rate.
Implement use of the direct loan electronic master promissory note
Develop a “GoSolar-Ask Jeeves” GSU search engine for student web inquires
Reorganize office centered on student needs and services
Improve communication with external and internal constituents by providing accurate and
Provide increased staff development opportunities.
Promote improved coordination with other University offices.
Reduce the number of student complaints.
A2. Are they consistent with the student mission and functional responsibilities of the unit?
Yes, these goals are consistent with the defined mission and functional responsibilities of the unit.
The unit’s goals are consistent with the defined mission and vision of Enrollment Management.
The goals directly support the unit’s mission and necessary efforts are in place to achieve and/or
maintain these goals. In addition, these goals also offer support to the broader University mission.
Specific goals supported include:
Developing superior student friendly services
Developing leaders at all levels
Assist in recruiting more scholars and honor students
Assist in increasing International experiences for undergraduates
Reducing the number of student complaints
Reducing phone wait time
Increasing the University wide retention of students
A3. What is the unit’s method of developing goals/objectives and communicating them to
unit staff and constituents?
The goals of the unit must be consistent with minimum requirements established by the Board of
Regents of the University System of Georgia. We must also adhere to State and Federal
Regulations. Within the University, some goals have been developed by such bodies as the
Enrollment Management Group (EMG) and various committees within the unit. Goals for the
unit are established by management and are communicated through biweekly staff meetings.
Goals for subunits (Customer Service, Records and Verification, Counselors, and Management)
are identified by management in collaboration with subunit members. Subunit and committee
meetings (Get the Word Out, Policies and Procedures) are held to discuss strategies and updates.
A4. How does the office staff size compare with similar institutions? How does the office
staffing size effect the overall performance of the office?
Recently, Pam Fowler, Director of Financial Aid at the University of Michigan asked all members
of the Coalition of State University Aid Administrators their office size and the total enrollment.
While this was an informal survey, it highlighted the enormous difference between research
universities and smaller state universities. The range ran from a high of 1664 students to every
staff member to a low of 430 students per staff member. The medial was 852. If you take our fall
2003 enrollment and divide by 852, our office size would be 33 staff members (I.C.1.2).
If you compare our office size to the University of South Florida or the University of Georgia
(both research institutions), it is very apparent that we are seriously understaffed (I.C.1.1). Being
understaffed affects our processing, our compliance with regulations, and our customer service.
Each area is critical and requires sufficient staff to ensure we process, comply and provide
adequate customer service. We are ranked as the 32 largest Federal William D. Ford lender in the
United States I.C.1.2). We constantly juggle our compliance efforts among staff and run the risk
of developing undisclosed errors from constant fire fighting. Our customer service efforts are
critical for the ability to quickly respond to student needs, the ability to be perceived as helpful,
and the ability to reach out to students effects our University retention efforts. Based on our
customer surveys, approximately 40% of all students responding cited the ability to meet with
someone in person as a critical need. All over campus, the ability to meet with someone effects
large numbers of students. We cannot afford to be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. We
need to foster a caring, concerned attitude that comes across to students and enforces their
decision to remain at Georgia State University.
B1. To what extent have the present goals and objectives been achieved? How is the
Provide follow up within 24 hours to student inquiries.
By responding to students inquiries within 24 hours, we have seen a decrease in the number of
attempted and deflected telephone inquiries. The number of repetitive emails has decreased
significantly. There has also been a decrease in the number of in person contacts between
students and staff. We make every attempt to provide student follow up within 24 hours.
However, during peak processing periods, this just isn’t possible given our current staff size.
Implement a Quality Assurance Program to Replace Federal Verification
We are currently implementing the Quality Assurance Program to replace federal verification.
Four staff members recently attended a two day training hosted by the Department of Education.
The unit is currently analyzing limited data from Academic Year 2003-2004 in order to define
Quality Assurance verification procedures for Academic Year 2004-2005.
Quality Assurance enables the unit to put into place procedures for a more efficient file review
process and awarding of aid. Quality Assurance will reduce the number of students selected for
verification. Only selected items for the most error prone applicants will be reviewed, enabling a
determination of the accuracy of the Title IV awarding process. The data made available to the
unit through the Quality Assurance program will allow development of innovative management
approaches and methods to improve services
Implementation of imaging will greatly reduce the number of documents lost or misfiled. Staff
will be able to access images from their desktop, better serving students.
All students will apply for financial aid via web (Addendum II.B.1.1)
The unit no longer offers the paper financial aid application (FAFSA) in the customer
service/front desk area. We do provide a worksheet which assists the student in compiling the
necessary information needed to complete FAFSA On the Web. Staff instructs students and
attempt to troubleshoot any difficulties the student may encounter in the web application process.
Because the online application contains many edit checks, the number of applications rejected due
to error has decreased greatly. The third party processor for the Department of Education gives
priority to online FAFSA applications. Therefore students are notified by the processor more
rapidly when completing FAFSA On The Web versus the paper FAFSA.
Implement use of the direct loan electronic master promissory note
Beginning 2005-2006 the Office of Student Financial Aid will require Federal Direct Stafford
Loan borrowers to complete the Master Promissory Note (MPN) electronically. This will entail a
mass informational campaign to new borrowers, informing them that MPN’s will no longer be
mailed to students. The student will complete this requirement on the Direct Loan Program’s
website. In turn, this information will be electronically submitted to Georgia State University,
documenting the student’s fulfillment of the requirement.
Develop a “GoSolar Ask Jeeves” GSU search engine for student inquiries.
We are currently in the research phase of this project, contacting other schools with similar
customized search engines. The unit will address the EMG for support of this effort. This
development will allow students to search for specific Georgia State University financial aid
information online using key words and phrases. The search results will provide the student with a
number of questions containing the specified key word or phrase. The student need only click on
the appropriate question to have the answer displayed. If none of the questions offered is what the
student intended, the student will be given the opportunity to redefine the search or submit an
email to the unit containing the specific question. New questions and answers will be
continuously added to the database of this engine. As a result student contacts should gradually
decline as increasingly more questions and answers are stored in the database. Student knowledge
of the financial aid process should increase, and students will be provided consistent, reliable
information twenty four hours a day.
Reorganize office centered on student needs and services
Since the implementation of SCT Banner, the structure of the unit has evolved into a “student
needs” driven organization. Currently we plan to provide for student contacts by alphabetically
assigning customer service teams. These teams will be comprised of counselors, customer service
specialists and members from the records and verification unit. This will allow better focus to be
given smaller, more manageable groups of students throughout the aid application and awarding
The self assessments made available to the unit using data from Quality Assurance verification
analysis may very well indicate alphabet teams as an inappropriate structure for this unit.
However, at this time, alphabet teams appear to be a logical step as we seek a more student driven
Improve communication with external and internal constituents by providing accurate and
The Office of Student Financial Aid makes every attempt to meet all established deadlines both
within the University and externally.
Provide increased staff development opportunities.
Management regularly informs staff of development opportunities offered by the University as
well as external entities. In calendar year 2003, non-exempt staff, as well as exempt staff, were
offered the opportunity to attend the GASFAA (Georgia Association of Student Financial Aid
Administrators) conferences, and GASFAA sponsored trainings.
Promote improved coordination with other offices on campus.
The unit attempts to maintain open communications with all University departments. The offices
of Undergraduate Admissions, Student Advisement and Student Accounts are the offices working
most closely with the Office of Student Financial Aid. A weekly meeting is held with
management from Student Accounts and the Office of Student Financial Aid in order to facilitate
prompt, accurate student service. Non-exempt staff from Student Accounts and the Office of
Student Financial Aid meet two or three times per year to identify problematic procedures or
points of confusion.
Guests from other departments are regularly invited to attend staff meetings in the Office of
Student Financial Aid. This is for the purpose of providing/exchanging information regarding
processes of another department.
There are certain departments or programs (College of Law, MBA program, Study Away)
assigned a specific representative within the Office of Student Financial Aid. This minimizes
confusion and the potential for miscommunication and affords an avenue where issues and
concerns may be quickly addressed.
Reduce the number of student complaints
Promotion and achievement of each goal outlined above will result in a reduction of student
The majority of goals set for the Unit are tangible and will be measured by the occurrence of a
specific event. Conversely, the intangible goals will continue to be measured by the use of
surveys and questionnaires presented to various student populations. In determining the Unit’s
success in meeting the needs of other departments or third parties, we will continue to work
closely with these groups, anticipating needs and requesting feedback.
B2. What are the unit’s notable accomplishments?
A very successful SCT Banner implementation has allowed the Office of Student
Financial Aid to dramatically increase the number of financial aid awards processed by the
start of the fall term for both AY 2002-2003 and AY 2003-2004. (Addendum II.B.2.1)
In cooperation with the University Bookstore and Student Accounts, a book loan was
created for students having pending financial aid disbursements. This loan assists these
students in obtaining their course books even though they haven’t yet received their
financial aid refund.
The Office of Student Financial Aid initiated professional development opportunities
allowing staff to demonstrate their professional growth. Through participation on various
committees within the unit (Change in Circumstances, Independent Appeals, Satisfactory
Academic Progress, Policies and Procedure, Get the Word Out), staff is given the
opportunity to broaden their perspectives in the aid application process.
Developed a Policies and Procedures Manual (Addendum II.B.2.2)
Have progressed through a series of Office Development Retreats focusing on
communication skills, cross-training and the development of office ground rules.
Have improved telephone response times. (Addendum II.B.2.3)
Scripted e-mail responses for staff use. Due to the large volume of student emails received
by the Office of Student Financial Aid, management created numerous scripted answers to
many common questions. Staff can then copy and paste the answer in a response email,
thus saving time and increasing staff efficiency. (Addendum II.B.2.4)
Developed a “What happens Next” Question and Answer pamphlet for New Freshmen.
Web site has been significantly improved to better anticipate student needs. Borrowing
scripts from other schools, the unit has been able to customize the financial aid component
of GoSolar, providing students with more detailed, online information.
Awarded a grant from Georgia Student Finance Commission to fund the Peer Financial
Counseling Program. This program consists of training selected students to give
presentations to groups or classes regarding matters such as debt management, credit
management and budgeting.
B3. How is achievement measured? Does measurement include feedback from providers
and recipients of services / products?
Achievements relative to customer service satisfaction are measured using student/prospective
student surveys placed in the unit’s customer service area. (Addendum II.B.3.1) Surveys are also
received from prospective students, parents, faculty and staff attending Panther Previews and New
Student Orientations (Incept). (Addendum II.B.3.2) Ultimately and generally, the achievement of
customer service oriented goals is measured by a reduction or lack of student complaints.
Processing goals are measured statistically using weekly reports generated within the unit.
Management compares historical and current data reflecting number of students awarded, dollars
in aid awarded, type of students awarded and type of aid awarded.(Addendum II.B.3.3) The unit’s
processing achievements are reported to staff during biweekly meetings.
C. Is the reward structure aligned with the unit’s goals and objectives?
Annual merit increases, when available, are aligned with progress toward the accomplishment of
not only subunit goals and objectives but also unit goals and objectives. Cross training,
professional development opportunities, internal and external committee assignments provide
additional rewards based on goals and objectives. During biweekly staff meetings, recognition is
given to staff members whose efforts have been praised by coworkers.
III. Services Provided to Community
A1. What services/products does the unit provide?
The unit provides specific information, instructions and services regarding the financial aid
application process at Georgia State University. This may include but is not limited to:
Provide the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) for Hispanic/ Latino
Respond to phone, mail, and email inquiries regarding the application process, financial
aid options, and student status.
Provide walk-in counseling services for new, prospective and continuing students
regarding the financial aid process or eligibility.
Process all financial aid applications for new, continuing, transfer, study abroad, and
transient students who have applied and are eligible.
Award all eligible financial aid and post funds to the student’s account.
Conduct peer financial counseling sessions which enhance financial skills, enabling
students to better understand budgeting, credit/debt management, student loans, and
Conduct financial aid information sessions for prospective students, during special
visitation events (Incept, Panther Preview). We also conduct financial aid information
sessions for entering freshmen throughout the year (Freshmen 1010 classes).
In the event of a substantial change in the student or family circumstances during the year
(loss of employment, natural disaster, death of parent etc.), we provide a means to
acknowledge the impact these circumstances may have on a student’s financial aid
Develop publications to promote Georgia State University and familiarize students,
parents, counselors and others with the financial aid application process, deadlines, types
of aid available, alternative options, office hours, refund repayment options, loan
consolidation options, etc.
A2. To what groups/individuals are these services/products provided?
Our services are provided to current Georgia State University students, prospective students,
parents, high school counselors, corporate organizations, community groups, state and
government agencies, as well as faculty and staff at Georgia State University.
A3. How does the unit make potential clients aware of available services?
The Office of Student Financial Aid utilizes various brochures, fliers, posters and handouts to
inform prospective and continuing students of available services. The Georgia State University
Catalog and the University website also contain detailed information regarding unit services. The
priority deadline for financial aid applications is advertised via the University newspaper and
radio station. Informational sessions are conducted several times throughout the year at venues
such as the Freshmen 1010 classes, Incepts and Panther Previews
Statistical financial aid data is submitted annually to such entities as U.S News and World Reports,
Peterson’s, American Bar Association, Princeton Review and Barron’s. This information is
ultimately used for consumer comparisons, compiled by these various organizations.
The unit also provides current information to national publications authored by Georgia Student
Finance Authority (GSFC), Georgia Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators
(GASFAA), Southern Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (SASFAA), National
Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA), US Department of Education
and various outside scholarship organizations.
B1. How are services prioritized and scheduled and by whom?
The Director of Financial Aid in consultation with the Associate Provost, the Enrollment
Management Group, and management of the unit determines the prioritization of services. The
priority deadline for financial aid application is set in coordination with the various admissions
offices within the University. The availability of the FAFSA application, web or paper, is
determined by the US Department of Education. Amounts and types of available financial aid
funds to be administered by the unit are determined by the US Department of Education, Georgia
Student Finance Commission, the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia and, to a
smaller degree, various departments within Georgia State University.
B2. Do any laws, regulations, or other requirements external to the University impact the
provision of services/products? If so please identify.
The US Department of Education determines the rules and regulations regarding student financial
aid eligibility, awarding, disbursements of all Title IV aid. Georgia Student Finance Commission
governs the administration of state financial aid funds.
The Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) protect the privacy of student educational
records and the release of confidential information.
C. How does the unit make the community aware of priorities, policies, and procedures?
The website of the Office of Student Financial Aid provides information for prospective, new,
continuing, transfer, study abroad, and transient students. Details of the aid application process,
awarding, types of aid, award status, deadline dates and policies and procedures are available on
the website. Links to outside agencies and organizations that may be helpful in the aid application
process at Georgia State University are also found here.
Publications developed by the Office of Student Financial Aid (Financial aid Bulletin, Award
Provisions, SAP brochure, Refund Repayment brochure, Hope brochure) are also used to inform
students of financial aid deadlines, eligibility requirements, awarding criteria, as well as policies
and procedures governed by the US Department of Education. The University catalog is also used
to assist in community awareness.
The Office of Undergraduate Admissions includes in their mailing packets pertinent financial aid
information targeted toward prospective students and parents. Currently enrolled and admitted
students are sent periodic emails from the Office of Student Financial Aid regarding financial aid
status, deadlines and specific award information.
D. How does the unit learn about the Community’s needs and obtain feedback regarding
service delivery? How well are client needs defined and met? In this section include
information collected from the focus group. Note: For units that do not have an ongoing
system for identifying community needs and receiving community feedback, please include
your plan for implementing such a system and discuss how this information will be used by
Currently enrolled students as well as prospective students and parents are encouraged to
complete a survey card when visiting the Office of Student Financial Aid. This card may be
returned by mail or deposited into one of two drop boxes, located adjacent to the office lobby.
The survey currently includes questions regarding level of satisfaction with customer service
given, in-line wait time, comfort level using GoSolar’s financial aid module, reason for in person
visit and free hand comment space. (Addendum II.B.3.1)
Student and parent feedback is also gathered during various financial aid information sessions held
throughout the year. During each session, students and parents are given the opportunity to voice any
questions or concerns they may have and/or complete a survey card. (Addendum II.b.3.2)
The data from these various surveys are compiled and presented to the Office of Student Financial
Aid. The unit uses this information to develop new office procedures, target specific unmet
student needs and set goals for the unit or subunits.
D. Are there services/products that clients need which the unit cannot provide? What would
the unit need to be able to provide these?
Since 2001, due to budgetary constraints, the unit has been forced to limit outreach efforts. In years
past a financial aid outreach counselor would travel with an admissions recruitment counselor,
visiting high schools statewide and attending area college fairs. Such activities have been an
integral part of the University’s recruitment efforts. Currently the efforts of the designated
outreach counselor are focused on campus events making only an occasional high school visit
within the immediate Atlanta area.
The inability to provide this service to our incoming freshmen is not only a disservice to those
students but also places further burden upon the Office of Student Financial Aid. These students
arrive on campus, having missed an opportunity to talk in person with a financial aid representative
from the University they have chosen to attend. They do not possess the information they need in
order to understand the Georgia State University financial aid application process.
IV. Structure, Organization and Climate
A1. What is the unit’s organizational structure? (Please provide an organizational chart.)
The Office of Student Financial aid consists of 26.5 staff positions. The organizational structure
of the office consists of three core subunits. (Addendum IV.A1.1) Each of these subunits
performs unique tasks associated with the aid application process; Customer Service,
Records/Verification and Counseling.
The Customer Service Unit focuses on all points of customer service contact; walk-in customers,
incoming calls and emails. Customer Service specialists provide instant responses to our
customers questions and concerns, greatly helping to meet our goal of 24 hour response time to
student inquiries. Customer Service unit is trained in a broad, general overview of the entire
financial aid process. This unit serves as a filter, identifying the more complex student issues
which should be forwarded to the counseling or verification units.
Records/Verification processes student documentation in a timely manner, relaying any problems
or issues to the student in an effort to gain quick resolution. This unit also responds to student
issues forwarded from the Customer Service Unit, needing specific personal attention.
Counseling unit provides one on one counseling to students having complex problems and
questions extending beyond the abilities of the customer service unit. The counseling unit also
performs many necessary functions within SCT Banner relating to specific subpopulations of
students (Hope scholars, Law students, athletes, Stafford and Plus loan borrowers).
A2. Is this form of organization appropriate to meeting the unit’s goals and objective?
The structure of the Student Financial Aid Office appropriately addresses the needs of our current
and prospective students, the University and external agencies. However, there are other models
that may lead to more efficient performance. One specific goal of this office is to reorganize with
an emphasis on student’s needs and the services most desired. One such model that addresses this
goal utilizes teams, each team consisting of members from the customer service,
records/verification, and counseling units.
A3. Do all critical staff functions have a backup?
Currently, all critical staff functions have one backup. It is our desire to increase our cross
training efforts so that all critical functions have two backups. Because of the SCT Banner
implementation there are some procedural functions which do not currently have backup. This
will be corrected within six to nine months.
B1. For any services/products provided by the unit in conjuction with other units within the
University, please describe the relationship.
The Student Financial Aid Office works intricately with both Student Accounts and Revenue and
Receivable Services. Weekly meetings are held with management from both offices in an effort
to keep abreast of timelines, upcoming dates of importance and any existing issues. Customer
service personnel from each office meet two to three times a year to discuss processes and
procedures and brainstorm ways to reduce the shuffle a student may experience between the three
B2. How is the work coordinated between or among units?
Necessary updates and communications are made with other offices, such as Undergraduate
Admissions, Registrar, and Student Advisement through the Major Issues Group of the
Enrollment Management Group. Also representatives from these offices are occasionally invited
to attend staff meetings of the Student Financial Aid Office in order to share information which
may affect processes of either office.
B3. How can such relations be facilitated?
Because the Student Financial Aid Office is dependent upon Student Accounts and Revenue and
Receivable Services for checks and balances and delivery of aid, it is imperative that these offices
be included in functions such as the Enrollment Management Group.
C. Are duplicate of parallel services offered within the unit or elsewhere in the University?
There are no duplicate or parallel services offered within the unit or elsewhere in the University.
D. What are the unit’s planning, decision-making, and evaluation processes. Who is
involved in each?
The Unit’s planning is primarily a function of management. Management determines the
direction and timeline for the unit’s main objectives and goals. Management meetings are held at
least biweekly, to plan activities within the unit and coordinate functions according to University
timetables. Various committees are utilized to plan and carryout supporting functions such as
timing/content of communications to students and creation of the unit’s Policies and Procedures
manual. Such committees are comprised of representatives from all levels within the unit.
Specific employee assignment is sometimes made in order for each committee to accurately
reflect the structure of the unit.
Employees within the unit were recently given the opportunity to respond to a survey created by
the Office of Management and Staff Development. The purpose of this survey was to assess the
level of employee morale, confidence and satisfaction with this unit.
Following the beginning of each term, members of management meet with staff members from
each subunit. The purpose of these meetings is to assess the strengths of each unit during peak
times as well as identifying specific problems. Suggestions are welcomed by all staff in an effort
to achieve better unit performance during the next peak period.
E. Are work responsibilities clearly defined? How are these determined?
Work responsibilities are defined by the job description on file with the University Human
Resources Office at the time of employee’s hire. Any subsequent changes to an employee’s
responsibilities are communicated from management to employee. Responsibilities are
determined by management in coordination with the unit/subunit needs, workload, and employee
skills and abilities. It is a goal of this unit to update job descriptions for all employees within the
F1. What is the general morale, attitude, and culture of the unit?
The Office of Student Financial Aid has experienced tremendous success with the implementation
of SCT Banner. This success has helped to increase morale within the unit. As employee
confidence in SCT Banner and in individual skills increases, the positive impact upon the office
environment has been very noticeable. Employee turnover within the field of financial aid
administration is quite common. This unit has not experienced an abnormal amount of turnover
relative to its size.
Recently the Office of Student Financial Aid participated in a retreat facilitated by the Office of
Management and Staff Development Services. The purpose of this retreat was to assist in gather
information the unit could utilize in the preparation of the self study. Prior to the daylong retreat,
staff was given an employee survey to assist in determining the attitude, morale and culture of the
unit. As evidenced by the survey results; staff understands their importance within the University
community and recommends the office as a good place to work. Overall the comparison between
the Office of Student Financial aid and the University at large provides no outstanding
differences. Identified areas needing improvement include increasing positive feedback given to
others, and helping employees feel their opinions matter. (Addendum IV.F1.1)
F2. What measures are taken to ensure that the unit is appropriately sensitive to the
cultural backgrounds of staff and clients?
The unit has participated in retreats facilitated by Cornelius and Associates within each of the last
two calendar years. Staff members worked on learning specific skills to assist teambuilding and
effective communications. Ground rules were set regarding basic communications among all unit
Management will continue to utilize University policy and sound judgment in dealing with issues
of culture, race and gender. When interviewing, selecting, and hiring new employees and in
dealing with any employee matters, the Office of Student Financial Aid will adhere to all
applicable University, state and federal policies.
A1. Provide a budget allocation and expenditure summary for the past five fiscal years and
a copy of your most recent internal audit.
Money is allocated to the Office of Student Financial Aid as Personal Services (staff salaries and
lump sum distributions used for student assistant wages, temporary employees, overtime and
vacation pay) and Non-Personal Services which cover travel, equipment and supplies. Addendum
V.A.1.1 contains budgets for the Office of Student Financial Aid for the past five fiscal years.
The largest increase in budget expenses has occurred for Personal Services as staff size grew from
23.5 to 26.5 staff members. The increase in staff has been largely due to the implementation of
SCT Banner as well as the increased administrative burden caused by Hope Scholarship awarding.
Yearly salary increases for staff have been minimal over the past five years. The budget
allocation for Non-Personal Services has steadily increased over the past five years due largely to
adherence of technical requirements set forth by the Department of Education. Addendum
V.A.1.2, a copy of the unit’s most recent internal audit, evidences the units need for an increased
staff size in order to improve customer service efforts and minimize the risk of financial liability
to the University.
A2. In addition, for each of the core activities identified in IB, indicate how resources are
spent on each of these activities.
The table below illustrates the number of FTE’s and the percentage of combined Personal and
Non Personal expenses attributed to each of the unit’s core functions. The percentages and dollars
expressed represent the total expenditure of Personal and Non Personal operating costs associated
with each core function for FY 2003.
Core Unit Function FTE FY ‘03 FY ‘03
Study Away 1 4% $45,918.08
Administrative Support 1.5 3% $35,763.80
SCT Banner Support 2 16% $163,700.90
Loan Processing 2 9% $98,167.62
Customer Service Representatives 4 11% $117,245.40
Verification of Applications 8 26% $274,499.50
Awarding 8 31% $315,271.70
A3. To what extent does the budget allocation and its utilization allow unit goals and
objectives to be realized?
The increase in Personal Services funds experienced by the unit over the past five years has been
devoted to improvement of customer services. More precisely, staff has increased by one
customer service representative, one loan counselor and one Hope counselor. Each of these three
positions has played an integral role in balancing the additional burden placed on the Office of
Student Financial Aid as the University’s enrollment and number of financial aid recipients has
increased. The unit does, however, remain understaffed. It is imperative that the unit be allocated
additional staff and increased Personal Services budget allocation, in order to provide 24 hour
follow up for student inquiries. Currently, we are unable to meet this goal during our peak periods
(approximately 5 months per year).
An increase in Non Personal Expenses is needed to support the implementation of Quality
Assurance and Imaging, development of a “GoSolar-Ask Jeeves”, and in order to increase staff
development opportunities. Implementing and participating in the Quality Assurance Program
will require continuous training of those staff directly involved. The department of Education
hosts an Electronic Access Conference twice per year. Attendance at this conference by our
verification staff will be vital. This conference is how staff are updated of any change in
regulations or new directives regarding the Quality Assurance Program. Though registration for
the conference is free, travel and lodging are normally quite expensive, as it is only held in two
locations each year, both in major cities.
Implementing imaging and increasing staff development opportunities will each require increased
Non Personal expenses. Due to the intricate nature of verification, management anticipates the
need for additional computer monitors in order for staff to view imaged documents while
simultaneously completing the verification process within SCT Banner. It is essential that staff be
able to perform these functions simultaneously in order to maintain current levels of accuracy and
Increasing staff development opportunities will most likely require expenditures to cover costs of
training/workshops, as well as travel, where appropriate. Professional development opportunities
in the general sense of the term are available on campus or within the community. However,
professional development within the financial aid profession will require direct costs associated
with training and will require travel.
Development of a “GoSolar-Ask Jeeves” will require only an initial expenditure for the software
package. Creation of the questions and answers which will be continuously added to the database
will become an extension of the processes already in place, answering the high volume of student
emails received by the Office of Student Financial Aid.
A4. What is the decision-making process for the distribution of budget allocations?
Normal unit expenditures are made at the discretion of the Director. Purchases or expenses
beyond the usual and customary are normally made in correlation with the Associate Provost,
Director and management staff.
B. What is the space, facilities, and technology allocation? To what extent does the
allocation and it utilization allow unit goals and objectives to be realized?
The Office of Student Financial Aid is located in room 102, Sparks Hall. The space assigned the
office is adequate for the time being, but near the maximum capacity for staff. The location is the
lower floor of Sparks Hall across from Student Accounts. The front area of the office does not
allow adequate space for students to assemble which results in an overflow of students waiting for
assistance into the hallway. The result of an overflow is the appearance of a line when often the
number waiting for assistance is less than six students. A location with greater accessibility for
prospective students and parents would assist recruitment and would provide a more favorable
atmosphere to conduct business. Our current technology is a combination of SCT Banner and
institutionally supported network. The software vendor quarterly updates the SCT Banner
technology which maintains our accuracy for State and Federal regulatory requirements. SCT
Banner allows our office to process students in a more timely manner than the prior legacy
environment. We utilize the Web for Student application which provides student access for
financial aid application status, retrieval of information, acceptance of funds and payment. We
migrated from the legacy system to SCT Banner in academic year 2002-2003. The SCT Banner
supports our goals and objectives by allowing greater student access and is student centered. As
students understand and master the various functional capabilities of the Web for Student
applications, we should see a significant increase in student utilization of the system and a
reduction in student “in person” contact and concerns.
C. Do employee skills match the unit’s needs? Is additional training or cross training
necessary? Is so, what kind? Is there a regular mechanism for providing training?
We are very fortunate to have employed skilled staff who mastered the various requirements of
the financial aid process. These key staff members are consistently updated by the various federal
and state agencies which provide the funding. These agencies have workshops and conferences
which we attend. We have internally developed cross-training whereby each person has an
assigned back-up. Additionally, we train all staff in the functional responsibilities of each staff
member to assist customer service.
D..What changes could be made to produce greater efficiencies or economies of scale (e.g.,
reduction, modification, or elimination of paperwork; structural reorganization)? What
constraints (e.g., resources, personnel, technology) must the unit address to achieve these?
The office has continuously reorganized over the years to provide better processing and to
streamline service. We are currently developing a Quality Assurance program in conjunction with
the federal government. Using this QA program, we will identify the most like error prone
applications and the data fields most often misreported. Currently, we review all students who are
randomly selected by the federal processor. This is an intensive review which includes resources,
family size, number in college, etc. Many prospective and continuing student families feel this is
an intrusive process. Data consistency is necessary, but randomly sampled populations have
exceeded 5,000 families on an annual basis. Using the new QA initiative, we will only select the
families that report data which is most error prone. The fields to be reviewed are exactly the most
like error prone versus an intense total review. This should result in fewer family concerns and a
speedier processing time. The success of the QA program will result in a reorganization of the
staff as our need changes. We have this past year eliminated the mailing of award letters, missing
information letters and other correspondence to continuing students which has halved our postage
costs. In order to provide more personalized service to prospective students and assist retention of
current students, we have to have more bodies that answer phones, talk to students, and that are
available when students want to see them. We have made significant changes and accomplished
increased productivity of awarding assistance to students, but we have not been able to provide a
consistent, quality, customer service experience. The lack of quality customer service experiences
in all departmental areas of Georgia State University affects our student retention.
VI. Summary of Report and Strategic Directions
A1. Overall, what are the unit’s greatest strengths? How can this unit leverage the
strengths that already exist? Can the strengths be improved upon?
The Office’s greatest strength is processing aid in a timely manner for all student applicants. Each
semester, we review what we did, how the term went, what is not working, and how we can make
our operation more effective. The staff interaction and motivation to provide assistance and to
help students achieve their education goal is and will continue to be leveraged. As we bring up
imaging and achieve other goals, we will provide additional, improved services for students. The
sequential nature of providing a financial product expedites continual review and improvements.
B. What areas need improvement, and what recommendations can address these?
1. What if any, changes are indicated in the unit’s current mission, goals, and
objectives? (Section 1)
The Office of Student Financial Aid’s current mission and goals are in alignment with the
Enrollment Management Group’s goals and objectives. As the needs and expectations change
for the students attending our institution, so will our goals and objectives.
2. What, if any, changes are indicated in the ways that the achievement of goals and
objectives is measured? (Section II).
Currently we are measuring our success by the contacts we have with students. We have
awarded over 22,000 students by the beginning of the year which is significantly more than on
the legacy system. We have a telephone system that is inadequate, but does provide valid
statistics. The fewer calls we received at peak times will be an indication that we have
provided students with timely service and a means to access the service. We use the
university email system and will increase our use of this vehicle. For one, we are in the
planning stages of identifying key trigger points to send student confirmation emails that will
lessen the need to call or visit. Again, the fewer calls and the less front counter traffic, the
more successful we will be. Once we have a tuned search engine that answers students’
rudimentary questions, we anticipate that survey responses will be more favorable and
customer satisfaction will increase.
3. What, if any, changes are indicated in the services/products provided to clients by the
unit? (Section III)
We anticipate that with increased automation, selective quality assurance, staff reorganization
and additional resources we will be able to provide more personalized service. We will be
able to assign counselors to alphabetic student groups. This will allow students to have a
consistent point of contact. A consistent point of contact will assist retention for students
often feel that the administrative services are inaccessible. A consistent point of contact for
new or transferring students will also provide an initial point of contact that should help
solidify our willingness to assist.
4. What, if any, changes are indicated in the unit’s organizational structure, processes,
and climate? (Section IV)
Over the past two years we have made a number of changes to increase the number of students
we can award prior to the start of each term. We have increased our accuracy, and customer
service. We have reevaluated the financial aid counselor positions and functional role. The
reevaluation resulted in a reorganization of the counselor positions to include senior
counselors with specific program responsibilities and beginning counselors for customer
service. We have cross trained the beginning financial aid counselors as replacements for
senior counselors. As openings occur we have staff ready to move up. We have reclassified
vacant lines as designated customer service representatives. We have strengthened the
verification unit to expedite processing. Based on Georgia Student Finance Commission
audits, we have reassigned staff to beef up the Hope Scholarship unit. All of our efforts are
designed to be responsive to student needs, institutional needs, and regulatory concerns. We
are entering a new phase in our development that will allow us an opportunity to redefine the
workflow. Using imaging and quality assurance, we anticipate that we will reduce processing
time. This will enable us to deliver financial aid awards sooner for student review. When
additional resources are available, we will reorganize our customer service units to include
more personalized, responsible, and time sensitive service. Reducing the number of calls, the
number of contacts and the number of emails received at the start of each term will reduce the
stress and rush of each new semester.
5. What, if any changes are indicated in the unit’s resources (budget, space, staffing,
technology, etc.)? Section V
As the enrollment of Georgia State University has grown, the office size has increased.
Comparable institutions consistently have a larger office size. Generally there are more
counselors dedicated to customer service. As the admission standards for enrollment has
increase at Georgia State University, the number of new students has somewhat leveled off.
Retention is becoming increasingly important for the university. We have already spent
valuable resources to attract new students. We will find it less expensive to keep them versus
C. Review the recommendations derived from B1-5 above. What priorities among these
areas should be set?
Prioritized recommendations Measures of progress
1. increase processing time/efficiency internal reporting/statistics
2. decrease telephone wait time telephone statistics
3. decrease number of deflected call telephone statistics
4. increase usage of University email telephone statistics, awarding statistics
5. create GoSolar-Ask-Jeeves customer surveys, telephone stats
6. increase staff size customer survey, telephone stats
Prioritized recommendations Measures of progress
1. staff reorganization customer survey/telephone statistics
2. reduction in processing time (due to imaging) internal reporting/statistics
3. increase staff size telephone statistics/customer surveys
4. acquire new/additional office space customer surveys
Prioritized recommendations Measures of progress
1. increase staff size telephone statistics/customer surveys
2. acquire new/additional office space customer surveys