Student Registration & Financial Services Report on Student Services
March 31, 2015, Volume 61, No. 28
Student Registration & Financial Services (SRFS) has approximately 100 staff members who support the University’s mission of recruiting and retaining a high-quality and diverse student body. To that end, SRFS ensures that Penn students can register for classes and receive grades and transcripts in a timely manner. SRFS plans for, allocates and delivers financial resources that make a Penn education financially manageable for all admitted and enrolled students, while limiting educational debt burden.
SRFS is comprised of three major student service departments: the Office of the University Registrar, Student Financial Services (including Student Employment) and the University Bursar (which includes Student Accounts, Loans and Collections). Michelle Brown-Nevers, associate vice president for student services, oversees this complex organization that reports to the University’s Department of Finance.
SRFS also supports its Penn colleagues, alumni and external organizations by maintaining a roster of over 6,000 courses, course listings and descriptions, as well as collaborating with schools, centers and departments to help them provide financial information to their students.
Goals and Accomplishments
Each year SRFS establishes goals that support President Amy Gutmann’s vision of Penn Compact 2020 while also aligning its goals to those of Penn’s Executive Vice President and the Provost’s Initiatives. Below is a highlight of some SRFS goals and accomplishments.
Resources for Targeted Student Populations
One of SRFS’ goals is to create clear and comprehensive communication. The websites and the knowledge-base system were designed as a resource for students and other visitors. askBEN was implemented as a tool to ease navigation of the websites and become a place where the right answer to a general question could be located. A Parent’s Corner makes critical information readily available to parents.
Enhancements to SRFS’ websites feature information specific to veterans, undocumented students and low socio-economic/first generation students.
Student Borrowing Research Project
SRFS partnered with Laura Perna, James S. Riepe Professor in the Graduate School of Education, to conduct focus groups to discover reasons traditional undergraduate students at Penn choose to borrow. This information will help Penn better develop and align future financial literacy and outreach activities along with loan availability. Recently, emails were sent to approximately 100 students in hopes of getting 30 students to participate in individual interviews. The findings of this study will be used to better serve students.
Meetings with Student Leadership
Another goal is to keep the dialogue open and transparent with students. SRFS wants to understand the changing needs of Penn’s students and develop methods to align its services to meet those needs. SRFS senior leadership meets semi-annually with student leadership organizations, including the UA, SCUE, 5B, GAPSA and LPS. These meetings provide an opportunity for both students and SRFS to discuss important concerns.
Creation of SFS Student Advisory Board (SFSAB)
This board was created upon request from the undergraduate and graduate student leadership. It was officially approved by the Undergraduate Assenbly in December 2014; its members include nine undergraduates and three graduate students. The SFSAB meets quarterly with the University Director of Financial Aid.
Financial Literacy and Outreach to the Penn and Philadelphia Communities
SRFS believes financial literacy is critical. SRFS’ goal is to provide more outreach efforts and teach students and families about financial aid, educational financing and University benefits that impact financial aid and other financial literacy programs. The SRFS website hosts an online financial literacy tool, CashCourse, which can assist a diverse student population as they traverse various life phases. SRFS has collaborated with Human Resources to provide financial aid information to faculty and staff, as well as reaching out to the Netter Center, Philadelphia high schools and student groups to offer financial literacy education in small groups.
Consultants Engaged by SRFS
SRFS engaged One Purpose Performance, Inc. to implement a ‘360 review’ of SRFS. Two principals of the company spent three days conducting 12 focus groups and two individual interviews:
• The internal SRFS focus groups included SRFS senior directors, SRFS managers, SRFS staff, NGSS and Support Systems, as well as individual interviews with the Associate Vice President and the University Director of Financial Aid.
• The external-client focus groups of Penn areas directly impacted by SRFS included Student Leadership, Graduate School Representatives, Undergraduate Working Group, VPUL, Housing Services, PennCard, Residential & Hospitality Services, Finance and Administrators from Athletics, Development and Institutional Research.
One Purpose provided a preliminary summary-closing meeting with observations to Dr. Brown-Nevers, and Steve Golding,vice president, finance and treasurer. Trends emerged that identified areas where SRFS excelled, as well as actionable recommendations that will strengthen SRFS’s purpose—to help students succeed at Penn.
All-Grant Aid Program
SRFS continues to advance President Gutmann’s vision as stated in the Penn Compact 2020. SRFS implements the All-Grant Program by awarding need-based financial aid packages. Collaboration with Admissions continues as both departments communicate about Penn’s generous All-Grant Program throughout the recruitment cycles.
Next Generation Student Systems (NGSS)
SRFS has partnered with Information Systems and Computing (ISC) to implement this multi-year service project. The NGSS project strengthens support for the University’s interdisciplinary educational programs and academic innovation; enables Penn to provide the best service to faculty, students and their parents and staff; and positions Penn to embrace technical and programmatic advances in the years ahead. The first deliverable of this project is branded as Pennant Accounts, which is planned for fall of 2015 release. Pennant Accounts will enhance the student accounts and billing process. Pennant Aid and Pennant Records will be phased in over the next several years.
SRFS continues to ambitiously meet its goals while challenging itself with the standard of excellence for which the University of Pennsylvania is reputed. SRFS strives to develop and model best practices to aid in the efficiency of the University’s operations and continues to align its goals to support the EVP and the President’s initiatives. These latest actions are propelling SRFS forward with renewed rigor.