5 Tips for Keeping Financial Aid Information Current and Student-Friendly in an AI Knowledge Base
Because financial aid regulations are constantly changing…
One of the critical areas of operations for a college or university is compliance with Title IV (Federal Financial Aid) programs. These regulations can be very precise. They change periodically. They must be followed in order for an institution to be in compliance, and thus, eligible to provide federal financial aid to its students.
A key component of Title IV compliance is disclosure of consumer information. This refers to how institutions inform their students of their rights and responsibilities as financial aid recipients, and eligibility for various programs.
Colleges and universities are rapidly recognizing that AI Communication technology can dramatically expand their ability to inform and engage students, remind them of deadlines, and assist them in tasks like the completion of forms.
As schools embrace this new technology, it is important that they do it in a sustainable way that can operate and thrive despite changes to staff. Doing this well can go a long way toward reducing friction for students when it comes to paying for college, especially for first-generation students.
Indeed, a recent Ocelot study found that 74% of faculty and administrators agree that financial constraints are a significant challenge for higher education. Moreover, 87% of institutions agree that when students can’t easily access admissions information and lack the appropriate support, they are less likely to complete applications. Financial aid is a critical component of this process.
Since federal and state financial aid programs, and their respective rules and regulations change over time, it is imperative that colleges and universities have a process for flowing those changes into the knowledge base of an AI Communications platform.
Here are 5 tips for ensuring that your AI knowledge base stays current and compliant:
- Establish a master calendar of key dates and deadlines. Within the AI knowledge base, these dates can include filing dates, triggers to remind students of relevant pending deadlines, and also dates for reviewing outdated content. These dates can go a long way to ensuring the knowledge base is updated as necessary and that students are nudged along the way to completion of their financial aid paperwork and applications.
- Balance financial aid jargon with student-friendly descriptions. Since federal and state financial aid programs are regulated, you need to be sensitive to how you describe these particular aspects of financial aid. If you are not careful, you can easily describe a program or a process in a way that is not fully compliant. At the same time, it is a good idea to take the extra time to make clear what certain terms – such as RT24, SAP, Title IV, 1098-T – stand for. Describing these terms in a way that can help a student, especially a first-generation student, grasp the concept can be hugely beneficial to their understanding of financial aid.
- Guide students to existing financial aid resources. You may have terrific resources already in place to help explain financial aid to your students. If so, that is tremendous. If you do, be sure to guide conversations taking place on your AI Communication Platform to these resources when a student can benefit from them. For example, if you have a webpage or other online resources that contain helpful information for students, be sure to link to them in your AI knowledge base whenever financial aid questions are asked. The link can be as simple as an appendage to answers that says: “If you want to learn more about financial aid at our college, click here.”
- Create accountability around knowledge base maintenance. We have found that about 60% of student conversations with AI chatbot technology has something to do with money, paying for college and financial aid. We know it’s a critical topic for students, so it’s important that the knowledge base is current. If you are building an AI platform in house, be sure to assign clear accountability for ongoing maintenance as state and federal programs change. If you are licensing the technology from a provider such as Ocelot, be sure to know what they are willing to do on their end to support the maintenance of the content.
- Subscribe to a library of online videos that explain financial aid terms and walk students through key applications such as the FAFSA. Ocelot is a provider of such a service. These videos are a great resource for visual learners. They also complement all of the text content in your knowledge base. The cost is modest. In many respects, these videos are a must-have. For example, if a student interacts with your AI knowledge base and asks for help completing the FAFSA, the AI will clarify what FAFSA year the student is applying for (eg. 2021-22 or 2022-23) and a series of tutorials will be provided to guide the student through the application.
Financial Aid is a critical topic for students. For colleges and universities that either create or license an AI Communication Platform, it is important to think through how best to maintain financial aid content over time, and take care to make it both student-friendly and current. Doing so will put the institution on a path toward creating an AI Communication Platform that nails the “paying for college” piece, and effectively engages students and supports their success.
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