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December 4, 2000

Financial aid signs on with PeopleSoft

By Priscilla Echols

With the final addition of the financial aid office, which goes live today, Dec. 4, the implementation of the PeopleSoft Student Administration System (PSAS) is complete, wrapping up a project that began four years ago.

Until the end of the Summer 2001 semester, the current financial aid management system (FAM Plus) will run simultaneously with PSAS.

The first students to have their financial aid packaged on PSAS will be the early decision students in the entering class of Fall 2001. All students entering the University or continuing in programs will have their 2001–02 academic year financial aid packaged on PSAS.

The financial aid go-live marks a significant accomplishment for the members of the financial aid implementation team. The complexity of financial aid disbursement for the nine schools, which involves 13 graduate and undergraduate careers with differing tuition rates, can be staggering.

For example, 54 separate equations are used to calculate financial aid for first-year students in the college. For the college’s returning students, there are some 70 different equations needed to appropriately award financial aid.

The financial aid go-live also represents the culmination of the new student information system project, which began in earnest in 1996. Three previous offices have been outfitted with PSAS: admissions, the registrar and student financials.

The most important goal of this project has been to improve service to students at the University.

“The entire process has brought about much greater communication between offices and more of a team approach to student information and student services,” said Dan Walls, dean of admission.

“The implementation has encouraged more communication among the central administrative offices,” said PSAS project director Heather Mugg. “At the same time, this has fostered communication between the administrative offices and the schools. The success of the implementation can be attributed to strong representation from the four central offices and their willingness to give 100 percent to adapt the system to Emory’s needs.”

One of PSAS’s identifying features is that it is an integrated system. This means that the information flows freely from area to area within the system.

“The integrated nature of the system has dramatically improved the accuracy of student information,” said Heather Osborne, implementation lead for the PSAS financial aid module. “Administrators have immediate access to changes in real time.”

Below are some specific examples of what an integrated system offers.

• The Web interface enables students to register through their personal accounts directly over the Internet. This eliminates the need for bubble sheets. Even students studying abroad could complete registration, as long as they had access to the Web and an Internet browser. On or off campus, this new system gives students more access to their Emory academic and financial history.

• Once students are admitted, they can anticipate financial aid being processed in a timely manner. Since the information entered in the admission office will be reflected in the common database, students will show as admitted in the system and preliminary financial aid information can be given.

• When a student drops a course a series of related responses are generated to adjust tuition and financial aid awards, post changes to the student account and notify appropriate parties of the change.

• Central and Oxford admissions now have the ability to assign an electronic file to each prospective student. As its other components are phased in, the new student system will combine all data for accepted students into a single file. The goal is to allow applicants to review the status of their application online.

In other words, record updates and transactions will be effective immediately over a student’s entire Emory career. This directly benefits all students and administrators, who will thereby have access to consistent and accurate information from a single, integrated database.

To date the implementation of the PeopleSoft Student Administration System has been highly successful. However, this success has not been without its challenges.

“I have learned that there are no easy solutions to database issues,” said Julie Barefoot, assistant dean of admission and career services in the business school. “It’s a complex, messy and often maddening process to undergo a computer system change.” However, Barefoot said she has been impressed with the way her colleagues focus on serving students in the best way possible.

Because of the scale of this project, an initial body of work had to be defined. The project’s initial scope was to replicate the functionality of the four existing systems, while minimizing modifications.

“This has been a positive few years for the University,” said Mary Lou Greenwood Boice, associate dean of admissions and student services in the theology school.

“Although there have been bumps along the way, these have been years of considerable achievement for the central offices and the schools in the area of student information,” she said. “The central offices better understand their need to function within an integrated program, and we all have a better sense about the way we can support one another’s work as well as understanding the


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