Financial Aid Process is Streamlined

By Sean Smith
Staff Writer

Boston College has adopted a new method of compiling financial aid-related information for incoming freshmen, one which administrators say will streamline the process greatly.

The University has begun utilizing the College Scholarship Service Financial Aid PROFILE system to obtain information about prospective freshmen for the 1996-97 academic year. This switch from the Financial Aid Form coincides with other planned changes at the Financial Aid Office, which administrators say will result in more efficient service to students and their families.

"The move to PROFILE is a good development and since the opportunity happened so quickly, we are trying to get the word out as much as possible," said Dean of Enrollment Management Robert Lay. "We want to make sure no one is discouraged from applying here and we feel confident that these measures will help in that regard."

Boston College is one of 800 institutions of higher education and private scholarship programs which have replaced the standard Financial Aid Form, which has been in use since 1978, with PROFILE. According to the CSS, the PROFILE system reduces or eliminates the need for separate institutional applications. Students can provide all the information up front to apply for private funds at the colleges and universities or scholarship agencies from which they are seeking help. PROFILE permits applicants to enter the processing system using a paper form, a telephone, the Internet or another computer network.

While not all of PROFILE's features are in place yet, University administrators said the system already provides a major advantage because it operates on a more flexible schedule than the FAF. Using PROFILE, the University can begin processing and awarding financial aid for freshmen earlier in the academic year.

"This is helpful for a couple of reasons," said Financial Aid Office Director Bernard Pekala. "We have been able to move our deadline for early action up to Oct. 15 and with PROFILE we should be able to inform students and their families about financial aid by the end of the calendar year, whereas in the past they might not find out until the spring. This gives them more opportunity to prepare and explore their options.

"Since we can deal with most incoming freshmen in the fall," Pekala continued, "that means we can devote more time to returning students in the spring. We are thus able to spread out our workload more and provide better service all around."

Another improvement, Lay and Pekala note, is that PROFILE paints a clearer picture of a family's financial situation and how it might relate to college costs. For example, Pekala noted, the section for adjusted gross income in PROFILE is far easier to process than in previous forms, which "only asked for components instead of the total." PROFILE also "gives us three years worth of information, so we can get a sense of any patterns in family income," Pekala added.

The Financial Aid Office is implementing and considering some refinements of its own, Pekala said. It has installed a new phone queuing system, allowing callers to stay on the line until a staff member can help them. While they wait, recorded messages provide financial aid-related information. The office itself has been redesigned, he said, with a student service counter to handle inquiries faster and more efficiently. In addition, the office is designing a home page on the World Wide Web, which will feature links to other sites containing information on scholarships and financial aid.

"Like many other offices throughout the University, we are trying to re-engineer the ways we do things," Lay said. "By using different procedures and taking advantage of the technology available, we hope to make some noticeable differences in how we serve the students."

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