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Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Eleanor's update

As summer arrived, we all patiently awaited the results of the June Board of Regents special meeting for the University’s budget information. The board did approve a budget and we did finally get the numbers. Now the Student Finance group has been working feverishly to get those numbers set up in PeopleSoft so we can build student cost of attendance budgets, award financial aid, and charge the appropriate tuition and fees.

Also of interest at the meeting, the Regents approved the system-wide strategic plan framework. Convened last fall, this group has worked over the past year with the overarching goal to better align our resources and leverage our strengths as a system. The plan has some familiar recommendations. It will be interesting to see the future of these recommendations. Details can be found at Strategic Vision for the University System.

Sue’s update

Summer is going quickly and we have been busy finishing up spring, orienting students, providing summer courses, and preparing for fall term. I hope some of you find time to get away for a little while as I know it is difficult to do so in the summer months.

The University’s budget is finally approved by the Regents. Since we didn’t have any idea what they were going to decide for tuition, we are behind on the timing for setting thing up. Staff are working diligently to get information entered quickly. I realize for the past couple of years I have called this is the most difficult budget year, however, this by far exceeds the others. I am not confident it will be any more predictable for the future either.

On a positive note, the SRC had a great in-person meeting July 17 and 18. Several items were discussed to help prepare for the upgrade and we had great policy discussion.

Rachelle Hernandez, Associate Vice Provost of Enrollment Management, Twin Cities, has accepted a position as senior vice provost for enrollment management at University of Texas, Austin. This is a fantastic opportunity for her and the University thanks her for her 22 years of service at the University.

I want to thank Laura Walker, Rochester, for all her contributions over the years. Laura has provided stability for Rochester in many areas as the campus was created. She is remarkable and will be truly missed by all of us. I wish Laura the best.

Melissa Dingmann, Crookston Financial Aid Director, has accepted the financial aid director position at Minnesota State University, Moorhead. She has been an exceptional employee and has provided great insight on many projects over the years. This is a great opportunity for her and we congratulate her on this new position.

Discover Canvas each Thursday this summer

In early June the University announced that Canvas was selected to be the successor to Moodle. The University now invites the community to participate in a Discover Canvas event held each Thursday throughout the summer. Members of the Canvas Transition Team will be available in person and online to help faculty and staff explore this new learning environment.

PeopleSoft Campus Solutions 9.2 upgrade

The Technical Upgrade (phase one) is moving along as planned. We are making plans to move to the last testing environment at the end of this month as we are just two months away from go-live for this phase.

Communications and change management plans are also forming. The Functional Upgrade (phase two) has been scoped to 17 initiatives. Close to half of these groups have kicked off and are actively chartering and gathering requirements. The other half will be kicking off in the upcoming weeks. You can now get weekly, high-level updates regarding each initiative in the project status dashboard sent by Carrie Otto.

System Registrar Council (SRC) news (July 2017)

SRC quarterly rotating campus in-person meeting
The SRC meeting was hosted in Morris earlier this week. The group worked together on several current initiatives including refining the CS PS 9.2 Phase 2 projects related to student records business, reviewing and prioritizing enhancement requests to Schedule Builder, and discussion related to the decentralization of some former student records training to individual campuses.

System Student Financials Council (SFFC) news (July 2017)

Nelnet on campus
Representatives from Nelnet (the University’s payment gateway vendor) made a visit to the Twin Cities campus on July 13. The majority of the meeting was to discuss our level of satisfaction with their services and processes. We shared that overall their product works well and things have been running smoothly.

The representatives shared that the late-fall release will include responsive design for their entire application that will greatly enhance the user experience on mobile. But the most exciting change for us (yes, it’s the small things in life!) is the capability for us to update the emails generated by payment processing. This will allow us to make changes when needed, streamlining the process and providing a cost savings by eliminating the need for a Nelnet work order. This has been on our list of enhancement requests for several years.

QuikPAY enhancements
The SF-IT team is in the throes of testing a new QuikPAY release that is scheduled to go into production the week of July 24 (if all goes well). The release does not bring many big changes but it does have a mobile interface that was successfully tested and then allowed the tester to access the student account and make a payment.

Collection agency bid for student receivables
Twin Cities campus has completed the request for proposals (RFP) process for agencies to collect defaulted student accounts from Twin Cities, Morris, Crookston and Rochester campuses. We have selected four agencies, of which one was under contract under the prior RFP, and three are new. Contracts are signed and we will resume placing accounts in August. Agencies who were used previously but did not win a new contract have been told to close and return accounts they have, or appeal with Student Account Assistance if they wish to keep working some.

Heartland ECSI changes loan service practice and communication

ECSI, the University-contracted loan servicer for campus-based loans, has announced that they have set a policy that loans that reach 270 days or more past due will be classified as in default. ECSI will no longer bill accounts that reached this age. Instead, ECSI will send a letter in place of the billing statement indicating the loan is seriously past due and will direct borrowers to call Student Account Assistance (for Morris, Crookston, Rochester, and Twin Cities). This change is a result of their concern that ECSI may be labeled an unlicensed third-party collector if they continue the current practice of billing statements being sent after a loan defaults, per their interpretation of FDCPA and the CFPB regulations. This change is likely to have very little impact on our borrowers, but there may be an increase in contacts at our campuses.

System Financial Aid Council (SFAC) news (July 2017)

2017-18 financial aid awards
Now that the Board of Regents has approved the budget and set tuition and fees for the upcoming year, SF-IT, FA-IT and Office of Student Finance financial aid staff are busily inputting the figures and creating actual financial aid packages for students on all campuses.

Impact of Prior Prior Year (PPY) and early FAFSA filing date
Sometimes policy changes work as intended. As we enter into the second year of the early FAFSA and PPY, the National College Access Network (NCAN) looked at the numbers from the US Education Department’s Office of Federal Student Aid and found that the high school class of 2017 filed 9% more FAFSAs by June 30 than the class of 2016, an increase of 178,000 more students--over 2.1 million in total. Overall, 61% of high school seniors this year filed the FAFSA by June 30, compared to 56% in 2016.

By the end of December, 1.1 million high school seniors--about a third of all seniors nationally--had already filed their FAFSA before it would have even been available to them in the past. The University did experience higher than normal FAFSA submission levels. (Excerpted from NASFAA News)