Friday, August 25, 2017

Getting more from the data and helping students get access to UVA

Scott Miller’s priority is to make sure students who want to attend UVA get the most out of financial aid.

As Director of Financial Aid in Student Financial Services, Miller and his team work closely with new students, transfer students, and returning students all year round, walking them through the process of applying for financial aid, answering their questions, and providing needed information.

Miller knows that financial aid can be daunting for students and families, so he keeps very close track of where students are in the application process.

From Left:  Mike Holian, Wendy West, Scott Miller,
Johann Reinicke, and Xavier Wiltbank, showing
off the dashboard to their new tool.
“I track the status of financial aid applications so I can see how many we have waiting, and what we’re waiting on from them, so I know who we need to reach out to and how we can help,” Miller said.

Up until recently, this tracking was fairly arduous: done in excel spreadsheets, the process involved a lot of cutting and pasting and sorting and matching of data from different sources, some of which was updated only weekly. It was time and labor intensive, and not always current as could be desired, but something Miller and his team were willing to do in order to help students.

That was the process until Wendy West, Miller’s colleague in Student Financial Services, told Miller there were new ways of reporting at UVA that might make things faster and easier. Thus began a team effort involving Miller and internal SFS IT resources in tight coordination with Johann Reinicke, Distributed Reporting Lead within UBI.
Through his work with UBI, Reinicke had seen firsthand many schools and units “making do” with slower and outdated reporting methods prior to UBI implementation.

“People have always found ways to get the data they need to get processes to move along, but without the right tools, it’s not always easy to complete” he commented.

“We worked with SFS so they could use the enterprise platform within UBI as a tool to make their process more streamlined. We partnered with them to build on that platform and help them take it where they needed it to go,” he explained.

Miller, working with West, Xavier Wiltbank, Amy Nolasco, and Mike Holian of SFS, identified the data fields and functionality that would allow them to monitor their processes and workflow most efficiently.

Reinicke and his team were then able to work within the enterprise software that drives UBI to enable SFS to use the system to achieve their goals.

The resulting system, a pilot of sorts, allowed SFS to get a new and up to the minute perspective on where students of all kinds were within the process.

Miller says that now when the data reveals students having issues, he revisits the way SFS is communicating about that part of the process, or invites those students to an event where they can be individually helped. The system has also enhanced communication between SFS and Admissions as they work toward their shared goal of assisting students entering UVA.

“SFS took the first step in taking ownership of the process, and seeing how they could get more out of their data,” said Reinicke.

“These are state of the art tools we’re using – QlikView, QlikSense – we are behind the scenes making sure that the proper security measures are in place, as well as best practices for development, so that when SFS pulls up a data point, they can be sure it’s accurate, trustworthy data.”

For Miller and the SFS team, the insight they have allows for a greater opportunity to serve students.

“We can now see the hold ups for all student populations. We can slice and dice the data in a multitude of ways. All I have to do is go into the tool and hit ‘refresh,’ and I have the latest information on our students’ needs,” Miller said.


Did you know?

UBI is more than a tool! Have a thorny data problem? Consulting services are available through Engage UBI.

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