Education Department must do more to understand — and close — the homework gap
July 20, 2018
The agency has taken steps to address the digital divide in schools, but there's more work to be done, FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel writes.
Many of the primarily online university's students don't have easy access to an aid office. The effort comes as the government is working on modernization, too.
Southern New Hampshire University, a primarily online institution with more than 100,000 students, launched its first mobile financial aid platform this week, allowing students to navigate the complex process through their desktop or smartphone.
The digital platform, offered through a partnership with CampusLogic, will especially help the many SNHU students who don't have access to an in-person financial aid office. Students will see their financial aid forms automated and presented in a logical order on their phone or desktop through CampusLogic's StudentForms tool, as well as receive email and text notifications and e-signature tools for paperwork requiring parental or guardian signatures.
The system "virtually eliminates paper forms," said Mike Moore, one of the university's vice presidents for student financial services.
SNHU financial aid staff will no longer have to track down students manually to clarify poor handwriting or missing documents, said Tim Lehmann, another vice president for student financial services. The online platform will also provide real-time data sharing, so the delays associated with moving physical documents around campus or an office are a thing of past.
"The biggest driver for us, as we looked at where we needed to get from a form solution for the university, was that we were seeing a lot of paper being shuffled around the university in various locations with multiple touchpoints. ... What we needed was a centralized solution, something mobile-friendly and online, given that we’re an online university, primarily," Lehmann said.
Lehmann said that student experience and feedback also initiated the need for mobile solutions.
A digital overhaul of the student aid system in general has become a priority for the U.S. Department of Education in its modernization efforts. President Donald Trump reaffirmed the need for a modernized, mobile solution for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) filing process in his fiscal 2019 budget proposal.
Moore told EdScoop that CampusLogic, which holds partnerships with over 500 schools, had to be vetted by SNHU's information security staff before the partnership to ensure that student form data would remain secure.
SNHU has a history of staying on the forefront of innovation. Earlier this month, the university announced a blockchain degree pilot that could serve as a model for a lifelong-learning platform for higher education.