I.T. Times
Volume 2. No 3 Information Technology News of the University of California, Davis Spring 1994

First Year Use of Financial Aid System Shows Positive Results

by Ivars Balkits, Planning, Strategy & Administration

Two years ago, the Financial Aid Office started training staff and bought the equipment they would need to use the BANNER Student Information System. They began setting up the databases for the Financial Aid Module in early 1991 for implementation in 1992. Deciding to develop the system one more year, they began officially in January 1993.

With 45 staff, the Financial Aid Office in North Hall handles all financial aid for UC Davis students but those in the UCD Medical Center and the School of Law.

"The Financial Aid Office uses the Financial Aid Module pretty much out of the wrap without many modifications," says Michael Cummiskey, Computer Resource Specialist for the Financial Aid Office. "That's because federal regulations drive the way we do financial aid, and the process doesn't differ much nationwide."

The tape load programs have been modified to fit UCD needs, however, and other modifications have been made to accommodate California-based financial aid funding and University and other scholarships.

Students start filing financial aid applications with the federal government each year in January and continue through to the beginning of March. The Financial Aid Office then receives and loads multiple tapes every two weeks (25-26 tapes/year) of information about persons who have applied at UC Davis.

Using this information, the Financial Aid systems staff calculate student need for aid, based on the current budget, costs of going to school locally, and potential family contribution. Then begins the packaging to deal with this need and how to redistribute the money from Cal Grant, Pell Grant, University Grant, Work-Study, scholarships, federal loan packages (such as Perkins Loans), bank loans (such as SLS Loan, Stafford Loan, Plus Loans), etc.

The checks are issued by Student Aid Accounting after a student has signed an offer letter and any supporting documents for his package of aid.

The advantages of the new BANNER system over the old FAMS system are myriad, according to Cummiskey. The old system, on the Unisys A11 mainframe, used a nightly batch process to update separate master files. The BANNER relational database, on the Sequent Zeus, allows interactive querying and updating of multiple linked files (called "tables").

For instance, students used to have to verify how many units they were taking when they picked up checks for the Pell Grant. Now staff at Student Aid Accounting can see Admissions/Registration data instantly online. Also, with implementation of the Accounts Receivable Module, students now receive an integrated bill of all they owe and all credits they have. Changes to the bill (housing payments, library fines, Financial Aid, etc.) are recorded instantly and verifiable that day on the new system.

Cummiskey predicts that "students, faculty, and staff are going to be happier with the new system, for its online features, instant access, and the report capabilities that are to come." For more information about the system, contact the Financial Aid Office at 752-2390.