Financial aid officers play an integral role in helping students access, understand, and benefit from institutional grants. Institutional grants are funds from the college or university itself and are often need-based.
That means they’re awarded in order to help students pay for higher education who may not have the financial means to do so otherwise. Given these students face additional challenges when it comes to enrollment in higher education, colleges must prioritize those who rely on institutional aid.
But to do this, financial aid officers must keep accurate and timely records of the institutional grants offered at their college or university, then they need to present these to prospective students clearly and simply.
Let’s explore how higher education staff can better connect their students to institutional aid.
Maintain an Updated List
The first step in keeping track of institutional grants is to create an inventory of all the grants available at your institution. This includes any grants that are based on need, merit, or any other criteria. Many financial aid officers separate these grants according to need, which lets them quickly comb through potential aid that suits a prospective student’s needs.
Financial aid officers should also create a timeline of when grants are available to students, and make sure to update this information on a regular basis. For example, if institutional grants are only available for first-time freshmen or specific academic years, this should be included in the timeline. It’s also important to note any changes in the amount or eligibility criteria of the grants, so that prospective students are informed of any changes.
Posting the list on your website is a great place to start. Many higher education institutions are also leaning on net price calculators to make a difference. These software tools break down estimates for attending college, which can help students and their families decide which schools to apply to. Keeping both an NPC and a list of institutional grants on hand when students or their families email or call in helps alleviate the stress of paying for college at least a little… especially when admissions staff present them with more options.
Work With the Whole Picture
In addition to creating an inventory of grants, financial aid officers should also be aware of the different types of grants available. These can include federal grants, state grants, college-specific grants, and private grants. Each type of grant has its own set of eligibility criteria and requirements, so financial aid officers must know about the different types of grants and how they can be used to help students pay for college.
For example, some institutional grants may not be available for students who are receiving a Pell Grant or similar offer from filing their FAFSA. Additionally, other institutional grants may have nothing to do with financial status or even academics. Some might correlate to a creative or academic skill, such as performance art or debate.
Because of this, financial aid officers should be clear and concise in their descriptions of each opportunity when presenting them to students. They should provide a brief overview of the institutional grants, their eligibility criteria, and how they can be used to help pay for college. It’s also important to note any deadlines or restrictions that may apply, as this will help prospective students make an informed decision about which grants to apply for.
Study the Competition
Lastly, financial aid officers should be aware of the average institutional grants offered by other colleges and universities—especially those that students may also be considering. This can help them better understand the financial aid landscape and ensure that their college or university is offering competitive grants to students.
They can also use this information to tailor their grants to better meet the needs of their students. After all, many institutional grants are created with a focus on a school’s student body. That means that they’re designed with a specific demographic in mind—and that demographic might expect different benefits from a grant over time.
Keeping Everything in Order
In sum, financial aid officers can keep track of institutional grants and present these to prospective students by creating an inventory of all the grants available, understanding the different types of grants, and being aware of the average institutional grants offered by other colleges and universities. By following these steps, financial aid officers can ensure that their college or university is offering the best grants to students to help them pay for their higher education.