After two years of planning, officials this month will begin accepting requests for a student council to relay concerns about the financial aid office.
The Financial Aid Advisory Council will begin meeting in September with at least 10 students and officials to provide student perspectives on GW aid policies and services. Officials said the board will meet six times over the next academic year to review financial aid office policies and relay student feedback, improvement previously strained communication between students and the office.
Jay Goff, vice-president of enrollment and student success, said officials had worked informally with student union leaders to identify four areas in the office for “immediate focus,” such as provide faster rewards and improve overall communication with students. He said their conversations also helped the office introduce an online counseling appointment system and expansion the 100 percent reimbursement policy for course registrations for the first two weeks of the semester.
âFrom my perspective, what I’m trying to do is make sure we have active feedback from students in all of our departments,â Goff said. âI think it’s the best way to have precise and reliable continuous improvement efforts. And so the idea of ââhaving an active and regular advisory board is perfect with my concept for the new enrollment management strategic plan at GW.
Goff took office last August when the University was setting some student financial aid programs during the pandemic. At the time, students had raised concerns about the amount of their rewards, prompting officials to socket two town halls on WebEx to address student concerns and resolve the issue.
He said the office worked with the SA on town halls, before starting to communicate regularly with then-executive vice president Brandon Hill for additional perspective. He said their conversations focused on how to improve communication with students and introduce new policies the office was considering.
He added that the board’s students will learn more about administrative processes such as repackaging rewards, which they can share with their peers to avoid the same type of miscommunication that happened last August.
âDuring the repackaging process, we discussed long-term activities we could do to ensure we have regulatory and consistent input from students on financial aid processes and programs,â said Goff.
Michelle Arcieri, executive director of student financial aid, said the office launched a scheduled counseling system last fall that it piloted in the spring to address students’ concerns about their scholarships. repackaged financial aid. She said the new system allows students to submit questions before their meeting and get help quickly instead of having to wait through the office hotline.
She added that the office gathered feedback from students through a customer service assessment, which will be shared with the advisory board once they meet.
âWe started a planning concept that allowed families to plan ahead, submit questions to us and all that,â Arcieri said.
She said the selected students will serve a one-year term on the board, meeting a total of six times next year, three times per semester, with additional meetings called as needed. She said each meeting will focus on different topics throughout the year, such as the review of student service platforms in October and student feedback in November.
The first board meeting in September will focus on reviewing accessibility for students requesting the free application for Federal Student Aid. The last meeting in April will include the preparation of the group’s annual report and recommendations for the next academic year.
Arcieri said the financial aid office will work with 10 to 20 students and two appointed SA members to provide the office with advice regarding communications, technology and student services. She said the board would select students from all residential and non-residential schools – with the exception of GW Law and the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, which have separate financial aid offices – to represent the concerns of students at large.
âWe had a few delays and then COVID hit and so we kind of had a number of delays with the start up,â Arcieri said. âBut the goal has always been to get the advisory board started. This is something that again, student feedback is essential and we know that, and we know that it’s not about turning the board on and letting it fall apart.
Hill, now president of the SA, said the SA will encourage students to apply to the board through the group’s newsletter and social media platforms, like Instagram. He said the need for the counseling was “relevant” before, but has been “exacerbated” because of the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the financial situation of students.
He said the council would help students understand office processes rewarding help and streamline communication between their peers and officials.
âThis advisory board is really just a way for students to stay in this process and share the knowledge they are learning with the rest of the student body when it comes to quick turnaround times, when it comes to acts as interactions with this group and other members of the Student Success Office, âHill said. âSo, it’s really just an amazing step towards more communication. And the SA is grateful to be part of this collaboration with the Office of Student Enrollment and Success. “