Turning Financial-Aid and Admissions Staffs Into an Enrollment Team

"Training admissions and financial-aid staff members to do one another’s jobs can be a challenge, but it can make for a smoother enrollment process for students and their families. In a guest post, Melanie Weaver describes what happened when Ohio Northern University cross-trained its enrollment staff," said Melanie Weaver in a guest post for The Chronicle of Higher Education's Head Count blog. Ms. Weaver, the university’s director of financial aid, is scheduled to present on the topic this week at the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators’ annual meeting, in Nashville.

What if I told you that your admissions counselors could be trained to talk with students about financial aid and your financial-aid counselors could be trained to help in admissions? The truth is, it can be done. About two years ago the enrollment-leadership team at Ohio Northern University embarked on an effort to cross-train all of our counselors.

We did this largely out of necessity. Budget cuts and loss of staff had affected both offices and made it more difficult to get our jobs done. We knew that families still needed a lot of help from us, and we wanted to be efficient in providing it.

We also knew that prospective students’ visits to the campus were critical to enrollment, so we were looking for a way to provide an excellent visit experience for them and their families.

In addition, we had a mission to build a stronger enrollment team. We wanted counselors in both offices to view themselves as part of an enrollment team, instead of considering themselves as just financial-aid or admissions counselors.

Finally, we were looking for cost savings and greater efficiency. Members of our admissions team found themselves spending more time and money traveling back to the office on the days when we expected many campus visitors. That also meant they were missing opportunities to stay out on the road and recruit. Busy times for the admissions staff were in the fall during travel—a comparatively slow time for financial aid. Conversely, packaging season in the spring put pressure on financial-aid staff members that could be somewhat alleviated by help from admissions counselors."

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