ScholarNet President Mike Mutziger sums up 2021 and previews 2022 for financial aid professionals and lender partners who work with us.
As we ease into 2022, Mike Mutziger reflects back on how 2021 played out for the ScholarNet team and for those who use our solutions. What does the coming year hold for students in higher education – and the school and lender partners who work with them? What impacts will be felt in the financial aid office or as a private student lender partner? (Mike makes no claim as a fortuneteller, but as someone who has worked in this area for over two decades, his guess may be as good as many of yours.)
Q: We were excited to unveil ScholarNet’s enhancement in April 2021. How did our current customers respond to the change?
Mike Mutziger: We were very excited about the feedback. The visual refresh provides a cleaner experience, and the new flows that were introduced have helped to streamline private loan processing at our partner schools. Other updates in the reporting functionality were also well received by schools.
Q: After the wild year we had in 2020, in what ways did we see at least somewhat of a return to normalcy at ScholarNet in 2021? What didn’t happen as you expected?
MM: The beauty of ScholarNet is that regardless of the pandemic, the processing and functionality of the product remained stable as did our support for schools and lenders. As our school partners adjusted to working from home and then gradually moving back to the office, ScholarNet was able to provide the same constant high level of support that is expected. We still have a number of schools that are working remotely, a number of schools that are still suffering enrollment-wise – and nationally, borrowing is down for both federal and private loans.
Q: What were the main concerns you heard from our customers who worked in financial aid in 2021 – not about ScholarNet, but about their role in general?
MM: School concerns also seemed to center around what is normal now. Many continue to work from home. Several offices suffered budget cuts and travel restrictions. Training opportunities were provided online and weren’t quite the same as being there in person with your peers.
Q: What issues or concerns did our lender partners have in 2021 – again, related to their role rather than with ScholarNet?
MM: I think our lender partners struggled in the much the same manner as schools. How do they operate and provide support in this new world – and what does normal look like? We saw a large lender leave the space, and several startups and new lenders see this as an opportunity to get into the private loan arena.
Q: In 2022, what single biggest challenge will our customers face? How does ScholarNet intend to help with that?
MM: Adjusting to this new normal and what it means. ScholarNet will help by being the solid partner we’ve always been. They know they can trust us and that we’re there to help – we’re one less concern for them.
Q: How do you expect COVID-19 to continue to impact our customers?
MM: I think schools are learning to live with some COVID-19 protocols and trying to move back to as normal as possible. As a whole, we’re learning a new normal and how to live with some aspects of COVID-19. It does appear, though, that ‘back to school’ is going to be closer to normal than it has been in the last couple of years.
Q: How do you expect the return to federal loan repayment to impact our customers?
MM: There will be some surprises. When you have an entire portfolio age at the same time, our school partners might be surprised at how large some of the delinquency numbers look right away. Eventually, their portfolios will look more like normal, but they could be surprised when the cohort default rates come in because they haven’t had any defaults since March 2020.
Q: What do you most admire about our customers and the way they handled challenges in 2021?
MM: I think it was the resiliency they showed. No matter what the circumstances, they continued to move forward and provide the best possible service to their borrowers, and provide answers to funding questions when answers were not easy to find.
Q: What are you most proud of in 2021?
MM: In December of 2021, we received a Net Promoter Score (NPS) of 72 from our customers in response to the question, “How likely is it that you would recommend ScholarNet to a friend or colleague?” Based on global NPS standards, anything above 50 is classified as excellent, with 70 or higher rated as world class. I’m really proud of our high score. (We created a word cloud to show the relative frequency of words used by ScholarNet customers who took the survey; larger words indicate a larger number of respondents using that word.)
In a future blog, we may share some of the anonymous comments from our customers in the survey, but for now, it’s really rewarding to see that the level of service we try to provide for the school and lender partners we value is being received by them. At ScholarNet, our goal is simple, really – to provide a user-friendly, time-saving solution, and to support it with exceptional service. It’s great to see that our customers know we’re committed to delivering on that promise.