Ensuring the Security of Financial Aid Family Data for Schools

Kassandre Kallen

March 21, 2024

    Schools, both public and K-12 private, are experiencing increased cyberattacks targeted at gathering private student and family data. A March 2024 survey released by cybersecurity firm Sophos shows the education sector reported the highest rates of ransomware attacks of all industries surveyed in 2023. According to the survey, 80% of lower education providers reported that they were hit by ransomware in 2023 survey responses, which was up from 56% responses in the 2022 survey. 

    The Sophos report also notes that, “Lower education reported compromised credentials (36%) and exploited vulnerabilities (29%) as the top two root causes of ransomware attacks. Emails (malicious emails or phishing) were the starting points for nearly one-third of the attacks (30%), suggesting that the lower education sector is highly exposed to email-based threats.” 

    An important part of our service to families, students, and schools is a consistent focus on ensuring the privacy of data. Financial aid is vital to each school we partner with, and we operate at the highest level of privacy for all the sensitive financial aid information schools gather to serve students. We know how important it is to have a secure student management system in place at every school we serve. 

    When families use the School and Student Service (SSS) Parents’ Financial Statement (PFS) secure online application, they use one singular form instead of filling out multiple applications for different schools. They do not need to send any financial data via email and all financial documents are uploaded securely as well. The PFS gathers all the financial aid information needed to process financial aid awards and ensures the process is fair and consistent across any school the student is applying to.  

    Schools are working hard to make sure that all families apply for financial aid even if the family does not think they would qualify. Additionally, schools continue to be focused on ensuring equity and diversity in schools, and schools are seeing low-income families more willing to devote a larger portion of their income to help their children attain the benefits private schools offer. Supporting the rise in financial aid applications from families with greater incomes is another area of emphasis for K-12 independent and private schools.  

    In fact, in the percentage of financial aid applications, higher income families have surpassed lower income families nationwide, according to the 2023-2024 NAIS Trendbook’s Chapter 4,    “The Equity and Justice Outlook,” co-authored by NAIS Vice President of Access and Affordability Mark J. Mitchell.  

    As families continue to recognize the immense opportunities a private school education offers, your school can provide prospective families peace of mind throughout the process. Being able to assure families that your K-12 private, faith-based, or independent school features a secure and online method for expediently processing financial aid applications and awarding aid can serve as a long-term differentiator for your school.  

    For more than 40 years, SSS by Community Brands has helped connect hundreds of thousands of students with an exceptional education. In fact, we serve more independent schools than all other providers combined. 

    Request a demo to discover more about how we can help your school champion fair financial aid practices with a secure, proven system.  

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