With more than 75,000 students and six campuses, Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) is the largest education institution in Virginia and the second largest in the U.S. NOVA is also one of the country’s most diverse colleges, with a student body consisting of individuals from more than 180 countries. For the past four years, NOVA’s financial aid office has been in a restructuring mode to better manage its double-digit growth in student enrollment and a dollar amount of financial aid that has tripled since 2008.
To serve students more effectively, NOVA contracted for a 24/7 call center, hired additional staff and reorganized its reporting structure. After working with a consultant, the college had not found the comprehensive support it needed with trained support people in one place to make sure everything was being done accurately and thoroughly. “We turned to FAS because it offered the whole package – professionalism, long-time experience in the business, a solid reputation and moderate cost,” said Director of Financial Aid Joan Zanders, a 26-year financial aid veteran. “We brought in FAS to provide analysis and file verification because we were not able to process the applications that came in during the summer peak season,” she said.
Zanders says the “domino effect” from working with FAS has positively impacted student enrollment at NOVA. “We are able to process more financial aid in a timely manner,” she said. “Because of the volume of work, federal regulations, and multiple reports related to the verification piece, we would have had to hire a whole lot more additional staff to keep all the balls in the air,” she said. “We have a close working relationship with FAS, including weekly recalls and status reports. We talk through issues and develop solutions.” Zanders is proud that a recent survey showed that 95 percent of NOVA students were satisfied with their financial aid service. Her office was ranked in the top five of all college offices for student satisfaction. “This doesn’t happen very often in financial aid,” she said. “FAS is extremely professional, and I can’t think of a better partner.”