Once the snow melts, the sun starts shining and the birds begin chirping, it’s time to stow away the sweaters and puffy coats and kickstart your spring cleaning. Spring cleaning your home is good for your health, so it’s not surprising that spring cleaning your financial aid is good for the health of your K-12 school.
By cleaning your home, you can avoid illness, strengthen your immune system and reduce stress. By cleaning up your financial aid folders, you can clear out the clutter and improve your organization. You can even increase the lifetime value of your students. At School and Student Services, we understand how important it is to keep your financial aid folders clean, and we offer a K-12 Select Software Suite that can help.
How to Clean Up Your Financial Aid Folders
Spring is the perfect time to clean up your financial aid folders. Declutter the excess paper, purge old documents and get your “house” in order. Follow the tips below to clean up your folders and get organized for the new season.
1. Adhere to District Policies
First, review the policies set by your district and state to make sure you are properly recording academic or health information while keeping it confidential. Before you make your folders, make sure your plans align with the best practices according to your administrator for maintaining confidentiality.
2. Organize Your Documents
Schools have a lot of information to keep track of — applications, student records, and financial statements from families. Effective organization of your folders and documents is key to making sure you can quickly and easily access information when you need it. Disorganized documents can lead to disruptions in workflow and make your organization less efficient. If your documents could use some reorganizing, now is the perfect time to do so.
Choose different categories under which to organize your documents. Documents that may be included in financial aid folders include:
- W-2 forms
- 1099 forms
- Drivers licenses
- Federal tax returns
- Investment information
- High school transcripts
- Social Security Numbers
- Recent bank statements
- Permanent resident cards
- Letters of recommendation
- Previous college transcripts
- Records of business income
- Scholarship application essays
- Records of families’ untaxed income
3. Save Backups
Documents containing important information should be kept safe and secure. You may want to invest in a cloud storage platform or an external hard drive to store backups of sensitive information. A computer should not be the only place you keep all of your information. Devices can get damaged, and if this happens, your financial aid information will be lost. Backups can prevent this from happening.
You should download electronic copies to your computer before backing up these copies on a hard drive or saving them with a cloud storage service. You may want to set a reminder on your calendar to backup your documents regularly so you won’t need to worry about losing essential information.
4. Go Paperless
Though inexpensive, using an accordion folder with multiple tabs is an inefficient way to organize important documents. Finding the paper documents you need when you need them becomes much easier with digital documents. To cut down on paperwork and stay organized, go paperless. You can both reduce clutter and lower the risk of a confidentiality breach.
To go paperless, take high-res photos or scan documents and store them digitally. This can dramatically reduce your paper clutter, and you can avoid the tedious task of sorting through a bunch of paper documents again in a few months.
5. Discard Old Documents
You’ll want to keep some important documents for several years, such as tax information. However, if you have documents from 10 years ago, you may be able to clear them out now. While organizing your financial aid folders, look for outdated documents. Whenever you stumble across them, consider whether you want to keep this information in a “just in case” folder or whether you can discard it.
You can shred financial information like bank deposits and pay stubs after they appear on bank statements and year-end statements. If you do need to dispose of old documents, make sure to do so properly to prevent the theft of confidential information. This can be done by using a paper shredder rather than simply tossing the paperwork in the recycling. If you’re unsure whether you should keep a document, you can scan it and store a digital copy.
6. Avoid Clutter
If possible, take steps to avoid clutter from accumulating in your district’s financial aid program. This can be possible when you automate your processes and implement our financial aid solution from School and Student Services. Get in touch with our great customer service team to learn more.
7. Turn to SSS for Folder Reviews
Receiving an avalanche of financial aid information can become overwhelming. Efficiency is key when making award decisions based on student applications. Follow the tips below to make informed decisions that meet your school’s budget and enrollment goals, along with adhering to your mission and policies.
- Get to know the families: For every student, you’ll receive the Parents’ Financial Statements (PFS). This allows families to add comments and any information they want your school to have. After reading the PFS, make note of any comments and any unusual conditions you should consider while considering a family’s request for financial aid. The more information you have about the student and family, the more informed your decisions for financial assistance will be.
- Understand income: A family’s income may come from several sources, such as W2 wages, a business, rental properties, and Social Security benefits. Compare the family’s federal tax forms against their reported income. Similarly, understand the family’s net worth, including assets like investments, bank accounts, and home equity. You can use the family’s assets and debts to recalculate their contribution amount. When speaking with families about their income, remind them of how your school keeps all financial aid information confidential.
- Decide award: Calculate a family’s contribution to decide the amount to be awarded in financial aid. A student’s financial need is determined by subtracting the family contribution from the tuition and fees.
During a folder review, we audit what’s in your folders and determine what is valid, what isn’t and what you need to keep. Use financial aid management software to help you through each step of funding in-need students.
Contact Us at School and Student Services
At School and Student Services, we can bring efficiency and consistency to your institution’s financial aid program with our financial aid solutions. You can configure the settings to reflect the processes and policies of your school, communicate with families directly, view verification of tax forms, manage award allocations, monitor document submissions and applications, utilize dynamic reports to better understand your school’s financial aid landscape, make real-time revisions to folders and review applicant information in a single folder.
Our solution can be utilized by families through every step of the financial aid cycle. Contact us at School and Student Services or request a demo today to learn more about our financial aid solution.