Thursday, January 11, 2018

Taking Service a Step Further

Student Financial Services and the Office of Financial Planning and Analysis Offer Assistance During Tuition & Fee Setting

This past fall, Student Financial Services teamed up with the Office of Financial Planning and Analysis (the “budget office”) to trek across Grounds to visit with multiple UVA schools and units during a very special time of the academic year: tuition and fee increase request time.

Every year, schools and units establish their budgets for all programs. Part of the process is deciding what tuition and fees rates to charge. It’s a complex process that the Office of Financial Planning and Analysis (OFP&A) had already helped to streamline last year by putting together a centralized tool for submitting the requests.

The brainchild of Disha Venkatesan and Jennifer Hale, the “Tuition and Fee Tool,” was built by CACS in partnership with representatives from OFP&A SFS, and EA-ITS SIS Finance. It has made the process easier and more visible for all the UVA entities with a stake in the tuition & fee setting process, but this year, Sarah Doran of Student Financial Services realized there was still an opportunity for UVAFinance to collaborate with its stakeholders: proactive, face to face conversations.

“We realized that when units submit their requests, they don’t always realize the implications in the same way we do in SFS, so we asked them if they’d like us to come talk through what it is they’re proposing, so they can better understand how their proposals may affect students,” said Doran.

In her role as Director of School and Departmental Relations, Doran’s priority is communicating and building relationships, so the idea of reaching out to offer assistance made complete sense. So did partnering with OFP&A, as budget analysts on that team also do in-depth work with schools and units.

Jen Hale, Director of Budget and Special Projects in OFP&A, saw the outreach Doran proposed as a good opportunity for the analysts on her team to get more context about this part of the process.

By the time the team set off to visit with eight very receptive schools and departments, it was composed of Doran, James Cathro from OFP&A, who worked directly with the CACS team to build the tool and currently maintains it, Cheyrl Elzey from Student Finance Applications, and the budget analyst for each area. They were fully equipped to answer questions, update the Tuition and Fee tool, and share and receive knowledge.

Once in the meetings, the group explored the ramifications of new programs, financial aid offered, and the potential impact of tuition increases on students. There was sharing of information on both sides, and an opportunity for administrators, both in the units and in the central offices to learn more about student fees and financial aid.

In the end, Doran says, the visits resulted in answered questions on both sides – questions that would not then need be asked much later in the process.

For John Teahan, Associate Dean for Administration at the School of Nursing, the timing of the meetings was impeccable.

“Talking to the group was extremely helpful in terms of understanding impact on the students; financial aid is a very critical piece and we want to make sure we have the aid to cover increases,” he said.

Michael Todd, Associate Dean for Finance and Operations in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, agreed.

“The outreach meetings were crucial in terms of providing context and background – our time together was a scene-setter for the entire issue of tuition and fees,” he said.

OFP&A’s budget analysts found the meetings to be not only a good opportunity to get insight into the schools’ future plans, but also, it gave them a greater understanding about a piece of the puzzle with which they don’t normally interact.

“It’s nice to be able to speak the same language, and better understand the unit with which I work,” said Keith Carter, Senior Budget Analyst.

All parties involved were very pleased at the clarity the outreach sessions provided on all fronts.

“The aim of this effort was to work with our partners and see how we could better support what they want to do, going forward,” said Doran.

“We’re definitely planning on doing this again next year!”

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