Finishing the Financial Aid Process: Increasing Student Access to Higher Education In a Community College
The purpose of this study was to examine how positive impacts could be achieved on student’s ability to successfully navigate financial aid processes within the Maricopa Community College system and specifically at Chandler-Gilbert Community College (CGCC). By evaluating existing processes and implementing enhanced system protocols (ESP), this study aimed to see how much of a positive impact ESP would have on student’s ability to access financial aid funding and enroll in classes. The study also took a closer look at how financial aid staff could better understand the systems through ESPs. In order to effectively evaluate the implementation of ESPs at CGCC, there were two approaches used within the research methodology. The first was front-end ESPs designed to target protocols that were student facing. The second was back-end ESPs targeting the financial aid staff and operations at CGCC. With the help of established ESPs, when looked at as a whole, more students were able to successfully navigate the complexities of the financial aid process, and receive their financial aid award offers at CGC. One of the front-end ESPs that held the greatest significance, in terms of successfully influencing students, was text messaging campaigns. The available evidence suggested text messaging as the most impactful way to get student’s attention. Although all of the back-end process improvements were important, the online policy and procedure repository quantitative data analysis suggested staff were empowered to provide a higher level of service with confidence and accuracy. Each of the ESPs made a small impact to student’s success and when aggregated the combined ESP results demonstrated a large enough impact that other colleges should explore the options of implementing ESPs to help more of their students receive financial aid.