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Financial Aid and Scholarships Office JacksRBack Plan

JacksRBack Plan Financial Aid and Scholarships Office (FAO)—Fall 2020

Operational Overview

The Financial Aid and Scholarship Office (FAO) is a Student Affairs unit and will be adhering the general university guidelines for safe operation in a pandemic environment. These guidelines align with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the South Dakota Department of Health (SDDOH). Key concepts to mitigate against the spread of COVID-19, which will be observed in the FAO, include but are not limited to the following:

  • Individuals are required to follow the current university and SDBOR face covering protocols;
  • Individuals will practice social distancing of not less than 6 feet;
  • Frequent hand washing and use of hand sanitizers;
  • Proper cough and sneeze etiquette; and
  • Self-monitoring for common COVID-19 symptoms.

Persons experiencing COVID-19 symptoms should not enter the FAO. Signage indicating these guidelines will be posted throughout the FAO and referenced frequently in the following plan.

CORE DEPARTMENT FUNCTIONS

Mission: The mission of the Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships is to provide access to higher education for students who would not be able to attend school without financial aid. Meeting that mission involves the following core functions:

  • Providing high level customer service and counseling to students and families;
  • Processing financial aid efficiently and accurately;
  • Reporting; and
  • Maintaining compliance with all federal and state regulations related to financial aid and scholarships.

CORE FUNCTIONS PLAN

Providing High Level Customer Service to Students and Families

  • Remote Phone Access and Calling
    • When telecommuting, staff will use the VOIP software to forward work phones to home phones or cell phones. 
    • Hourly staff must unforward phones when they are not working.
    • When making calls from home or cell phones, staff will use *67 before dialing the number to ensure that students do not return calls outside of office hours. 
    • When leaving messages or emailing students to call the office, staff should provide their SDSU work numbers or the main Office of Financial Aid number.
  • Phone Tree System
    • Designated staff will share the responsibility for logging into the shared phone system and taking calls.
    • When working from home, staff will use VOIP software to login to and out of the phone tree. Staff must remember to log out of the phone tree at the end of their shifts.
  • One-on-one Meetings with Students and Families
    • Students will be encouraged to meet with the FAO staff virtually instead of in person.
    • The virtual Financial Aid Office that was established in March will remain open so students can access the office via Zoom (with a waiting room) and have a face-to-face meeting with a staff member.
    • The Formsite scheduling form that was created for New Student Orientation will be adapted to allow students to schedule a virtual appointment with a financial aid counselor.
    • Counselors will schedule office hours where they staff a Zoom session with a waiting room so students can drop in and meet with the counselor.
    • For students who need to visit the office for in-person meetings, those meetings should be by appointment only. Please note:
      • Meetings should take place in the front conference room, which will be sanitized after each meeting. 
      • If it is necessary to meet with students in an employee’s office, that will only be permitted if the office can be arranged so the employee is at least 6 feet away from the student or Plexiglas has been installed. Extra chairs will be removed, and floor markers will be placed to show individuals where to sit and stand.
  • Office Visits
    In the event that the office is open to foot traffic, stanchions and sign holders with SDSU guidance and floor markers have been installed that will separate the lines for Financial Aid and Records and keep students a safe distance apart.
     
  • Website Updates/Improvements
    • An online video tutorial has been created to help students navigate Financial Aid Self-Service. The FAO will identify and develop additional tutorials over the summer.
    • Links to the U.S. Department of Education videos on how to file a FAFSA, complete the Master Promissory Note and complete Entrance Loan Counseling will be linked to the Financial Aid Fall Start-up webpage.
    • The FAO will work with UMC to create additional webpages that are not housed under Admissions that provide content specifically geared toward students who are no longer in the recruitment category. 
    • A landing page will be developed to help students navigate the fall start financial aid process.
  • Communication to students
    • Most communication with students is done through self-service messages, email, phone calls and web information. This will continue for fall 2020.
    • Call campaigns will be utilized to encourage students to accept financial aid, complete requirements and to inform students of other issues or needs that arise.
  • Financial Aid Outreach
    • Presentations or outreach by staff at Financial Aid Nights at local high schools, to classes on campus and other events will be done virtually whenever possible.
    • FAO will not attend or present in person at events not hosted by SDSU.
    • If SDSU requires FAO staff to present at SDSU-sponsored events, staff will be asked to observe all SDSU guidance.

Additional Resources Needed (Fiscal/Human/etc.)

  • SDSU Works staff to help with answering phones, call campaigns and some financial aid processing.
  • Stanchions, sign holders, floor markers.
  • Formsite software to help with scheduling visitors.
  • May need purchase of Apple computer for online tutorial creation per UMC guidance.

Communications Plan

  • Email
    • Automated responses to our email inboxes will be updated to include the ways students can contact the FAO during fall start.
    • Marketing has contacted the FAO about an email to all students in late July related to JacksRBack.
    • When individuals contact the FAO to request a presentation or presence at an event, the individual will be notified of the policy and an attempt will be made to accommodate the request through use of virtual presentations.
  • Website: A Financial Aid webpage will be created that is dedicated to fall start in our new pandemic environment. Additional resources will be displayed on this page. The ways to contact the FAO including phone information will be prominently displayed on that page.
  • Social Media: The SDSU Facebook page will also list the ways to contact the FAO including the phone information.
  • Rabbit Report: If possible, the FAO will submit information to the Rabbit Report to help students identify ways to access FAO.
  • D2L/MyState Messages: FAO information is displayed on the Dashboard tab of MyState. This will be updated with relevant information on how to contact the FAO.
  • Banner Financial Aid Self-Service: We will update the prominent pages in Financial Aid Self-Service to advise students of how to contact the FAO.

Processing financial aid efficiently and accurately

  • Student Forms and Documents
    • All forms will be available online.
    • Whenever possible, forms will be updated so students can submit electronically.
    • Students who submit paper forms or documentation will be encouraged to fax or mail the forms or leave them in the dropbox in the vestibule or University Student Union.
    • Work-study forms will be emailed to students.
    • An electronic form with the capability to upload documents will be created for budget adjustment requests.
    • Students will be asked to fax or mail proof of citizenship or eligible noncitizen status copies of documentation. 
    • FAO will look into creating a secure process that students can complete online and securely upload documents.
  • Processing Outside Scholarship Checks
    • Students with outside scholarship checks to drop off will be encouraged to mail the checks to the FAO or to place them in the drop box in Enrollment Services Center (ESC) vestibule or University Student Union.
    • A process for having students sign co-payable checks received in the FAO will be developed. Options include:
      • Mailing the checks to students using campus mail and USPS.
      • Using the space in the basement of ESC to allow students to queue up to sign checks (during the first week or two of classes). Students would be required to bring their own writing tool.
      • Using Information Exchange in the University Student Union for this purpose.
  • Professional Judgments
    • Due to increase in workload, a temporary worker will be hired to help with the increased number of requests to update FAFSAs due to loss of income.
    • A new email inbox for professional judgments will be created to manage the documentation and correspondence.
    • The FAO will explore creating a DocuSign form to be facilitate this process.

Additional Resources Needed (Fiscal/Human/Technology/etc.)

  • For scholarship checks may need additional funds for postage or additional signs and floor signs for ESC basement set-up. Will need drop boxes.

Communications Plan

  • Email: Automated responses to our email inboxes will be updated to include the ways students can contact the FAO.
  • Website: A Financial Aid webpage will be created that is dedicated to fall start-up in our new pandemic environment. The ways to contact the FAO including email information will be prominently displayed on that page including links to sign-up for a virtual meeting with the FAO.
  • Social Media: The SDSU Facebook page will also list the ways to contact the FAO including a link to schedule a Zoom meeting with the FAO.
  • Rabbit Report: If possible, the FAO will submit a short information blurb to the Rabbit Report to help students identify ways to access FAO including scheduling a virtual meeting.
  • D2L/MyState Messages: FAO information is displayed on the Dashboard tab of MyState. This will be updated with relevant information on how to contact the FAO.
  • Banner Financial Aid Self-Service: We will update the prominent pages in Financial Aid Self-Service to advise students of how to contact the FAO.

Reporting

  • FISAP will be completed the same as in prior years using the online submission and online signature tools for both the FAO director and President Dunn.
  • Per a waiver from the U.S. Department of Education, we spent more than 25% of our Work-Study Allocation as SEOG. This may require additional reporting parameters and may increase the amount of time to complete the FISAP.

Maintaining compliance with all federal and state regulations related to financial aid and scholarships

  • NCAA Compliance

The FAO will work closely with the athletic department's compliance area to make sure any changes in athletic aid due to campus closures or pandemic concerns are carried out safely and accurately.

  • Change to Fall Term Start and End Dates
    Changing the start and end dates of the fall term has created several processing and compliance challenges the FAO will need to overcome in order for students to remain eligible for financial aid. To resolve these issues, the FAO will:
    • Redo the new-year setup parameters in Banner to update the academic year, term start and end, and disbursement dates.
    • Run batch processes to update the disbursement dates, academic years and loan periods on all Direct Loans that have already been awarded for 2020-21.
    • Manually update any origination records for students whose fall loans have already been originated with the U.S. Department of Education.
    • Work with RIS to identify students and funds codes to update fall disbursement dates for all other types of aid.

Additional Resources Needed (Fiscal/Human/ Technology/etc.)

  • RIS may need to schedule consulting hours with a Banner consultant to help us determine the most efficient way to fix system issues related to changing fall term dates.
  • Depending on the work involved, staff may need to be granted overtime to update fall term dates.

Policy Waivers Needed To Achieve Core Function

  • The U.S. Department of Education has provided waivers for 19-20 related to V4 and V5 Verification that would normally require a student to appear in an office and provide proof of identity. The FAO will watch for these waivers to be extended to 20-21. If the waivers are not extended, a few students may need to appear in the office to resolve eligibility issues.  
  • The U.S. Department of Education provided a policy waiver that allows the summer and fall terms to overlap.