Reduced phone wait time in financial aid office saves students time and headaches
In an effort to respond to the flood of students calling the financial aid office during peak times, such as registration, Lakeland mapped out a plan to reduce students’ wait time.
Lakeland is one of 16 colleges and universities recognized by University Business, a nationally distributed magazine for higher education administrators.
The "Models of Efficiency" (MOE) program recognizes innovative approaches for streamlining higher education operations through technology or business process improvements. The program is sponsored by Higher One, which is a technology and payment services company serving higher education.
“Efficient business operations translate into better experiences for students and administrators alike, and the Models of Efficiency program aims to encourage schools to prioritize service,” said Tim Goral, editor-in-chief of University Business. “Lakeland Community College stands out for developing a very effective solution to a challenging situation.”
Faced with a higher number of students seeking financial aid and a drop in state support, as well as realizing that training a part-time staff would not be enough, the college contracted with Edfinancial Services to establish an external call center staffed with advisers who had expertise in federal financial aid regulations. They also were trained on the college’s policies and procedures.
The company handled nearly 9,000 calls. Because Lakeland staff had far fewer phone duties, email response time plunged, and in-person wait times fell from more than an hour in 2010 to less than 15 minutes last year.
Lakeland student Cindy Venesky has been singing the praises of the increased efficiency that resulted from the changes. “I have been so pleased with how quickly I’ve been able to reach the office. I actually speak with someone much faster than before. The improvement has been very helpful. I have a very busy schedule, basically I do not have the time to sit on hold for a long time or have to leave a message for a return phone call. This is so much better.”
The financial aid office’s processing time also dropped, from three to four weeks at the height of the flood to two to three days last year.
“I wish we would have started two years ago,” says Melissa Amspaugh, director of financial aid and enrollment support. “ was by far the worst financial aid peak season we ever had in terms of the number of complaints about not getting paperwork processed in a timely fashion.  was the best year I’ve ever had in my 25 years here.”
In addition to Lakeland, honorees include Catawba College, North Carolina; George Mason University, Virginia; George Washington University, Washington, D.C.; Houston Community College, Texas; Mercer University, Georgia; Northwest Arkansas Community College; Ogeechee Technical College, Georgia; Salisbury University, Maryland; Texas A&M University, College Station; Texas A&M University International, Laredo; University of Central Oklahoma; University of Virginia; Victor Valley College, California; Wake Technical Community College, North Carolina; and Wilkes University, Pennsylvania.
“It’s a very rewarding experience to partner with University Business in recognizing operations efficiencies on campuses across the country,” said Dean Hatton, CEO of Higher One, the program’s sponsor. “The creativity, tenacity, and determination demonstrated by the winners are inspiring to us in the private sector as we continue to strive to support the streamlining of operations and services in higher education business offices.”
About Lakeland Community College Lakeland Community College was the first public college in Ohio established by a vote of the people in 1967. Lakeland offers career programs that prepare students for immediate employment, transfer programs that prepare students for successful transfer to four-year schools, classes and certificate programs to improve job skills, noncredit continuing education classes, and workforce development training.
About University Business University Business is the leading publication for senior managers at colleges and universities throughout the United States, reaching 46,000 leaders who manage offices such as enrollment, technology, facilities, and academic affairs.
About Higher One, Inc. Higher One Holdings, Inc. (NYSE: ONE) is a leading company focused on helping college business offices manage operations and providing enhanced service to approximately six million students nationwide. Through a full array of services from refunds, payments, electronic billing, payment plans and more, Higher One works closely with colleges and universities to ensure students receive Financial Aid refunds quickly, can pay tuition and bills online, make on-campus and community purchases and learn the basics of financial management.