Applying for and understanding financial aid at MIT got much easier for incoming freshmen in 2012 with the implementation of online document tracking and financial aid award letters.
The process of distributing financial aid award letters was completely paper-based and manual before March 2012. Also, if a student's award changed or if there was missing information (which happens a lot), a second letter with the changes would be generated and mailed. This was not only frustrating for students but also time consuming for staff in Student Financial Services (SFS).
The new online application uses the existing PowerFAIDS system. This powerful, flexible and easy-to-use program is used to help manage financial aid data and to facilitate the generation of financial aid award letters, which are then uploaded and connected to the student's MyMIT page in the admissions portal. Digitizing this process has benefited both students and the staff involved in the financial aid process. Some of the key advantages include:
- Access for students to their most current award letters online
- Real-time updates (based on a nightly job run)
- Reduction of paper documents that need to be collated and mailed
- Elimination of the cost to mail initial and revised award letters to students
- Elimination of the cost to mail missing information letters to students
- Email notifications to SFS administrators showing the list of uploaded letters with details about successes and failures
- An online repository, where the award letters can be accessed if needed
The manager of the staff who process these letters, Leslie Bridson, said "Eliminating collating equals reduced labor and time; eliminating mailings equal reduced costs; and eliminating all the paper cuts that went along with the manual process was priceless!"
Partnership in action
Information Services and Technology (IS&T), SFS and Admissions worked collaboratively to put this system in place. The letters had to be ready to go live on March 14 — π day! Given the short timeframe (approximately three months from start to finish), collaboration between the three groups was key to the success of the project.
The award letters are generated by SFS and hosted on the Admissions MyMIT portal. There were several discussions between the two groups to ensure clear language and placement of award letter links.
What's on the horizon?
IS&T and SFS are now focused on bringing real-time award letters and document tracking online for upperclassmen and graduate students. Net Partner — a companion product to PowerFAIDS — will allow MIT to generate online aid information for all students at MIT, using Kerberos IDs through Touchstone authorizations. This application is expected to be available for the spring 2013 semester.
If you are interested in learning more about financial aid at MIT, check out the Student Financial Services website. If you have questions about the electronic financial aid letters, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.