Three Years In, the University of Pittsburgh is Still a Fan of ScholarNet
In spring 2015, the University of Pittsburgh started using Great Lakes’ free ScholarNet solution to certify and disburse private education loans electronically. A year later, Dr. Randy McCready, Executive Director of Financial Aid at the University of Pittsburgh, estimated the immediate impact of changes to PeopleSoft functionality and integration with ScholarNet was a nearly 60 percent time savings to process a private loan. “The long-term processing time savings far outweighs our previous manual processes of scanning the loan application into our imaging system, annotating the imaged documents, applying the generic awards, and getting linked up to the correct loan and lender,” he said after one season using the solution.
Support for the Change
Randy notes that it was crucial to make the transition as seamless as possible for their multi-campus university, which uses one Office of Postsecondary Education Identifier (OPEID) and Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) code for all five campuses. There was concern that loan applications would not be identified for, and appropriately reported to, the correct campus, or that reports would not contain the necessary data elements. His Great Lakes rep worked with Randy and individuals at the five campuses, lenders, and Great Lakes’ Client Services team to navigate the transition.
“Great Lakes is an excellent organization with a long history of top quality servicing through different parts of the business. They work with a school to get nuances unique to that school worked out.”
In the past three years, Randy says the university has continued to refine its approach to processing private loans—although tweaks haven’t really been needed. “Any kinks we needed to work out to send the correct information to each of our five campuses were pretty quickly resolved at the beginning of that first processing year,” he notes.
Today, the financial side of the house appreciates the “easy-in, easy-out transfer of funds,” says Randy, and very few paper checks even come in now. At the time of this conversation in the hectic mid-August processing season, Randy notes that between 100 and 200 loans a day are coming in to the school.
In 2017-2018, the University of Pittsburgh processed about $57.5 million in private student loans for its students. Prior to using ScholarNet, this time of year could find the school with a backlog of hundreds of loans—and sometimes a processing delay of up to a month. He says “it wasn’t unheard of to hit September and have 1,000 loans still in process.” With ScholarNet streamlining disbursement, loans can be processed—even at the height of peak processing—within four to seven days of when they’re received.
“In 2018, the expectation of families and students is that technology will be used to do business transactions. For a contemporary financial aid office, a school should do whatever they can to use their system to get data flowing because,” as he says, “even a few days for turnaround time is too slow for the customer.”
If those customer expectations seem high, Randy adds that they definitely aren’t too high for Great Lakes. As he notes, “Anything less than a highly successful implementation to ScholarNet for the University of Pittsburgh was not considered successful to Great Lakes.” Randy had wondered if his previous experience working with Great Lakes would be any different when he left Wisconsin and came to Pittsburgh. It wasn’t. “It’s just the way Great Lakes works. They want to make sure the customer—from the school down to the individual student—is dealt with with the greatest care and the best service.”
Randy credits ScholarNet with providing easier file transmission, greater reporting functionality, and streamlined loan processing and disbursement. Email notifications let the staff know when there’s a task to be completed, and errors are flagged before they’re submitted. The end result? Faster loan awarding and better, more efficient student service.
Interested in learning more about streamlining private loans at your school? Contact your Great Lakes representative to discuss your needs. If you have a story to share about how you’re using ScholarNet or FastChoice to simplify private loan processing, email us.