Breaking the Communication Barrier with Technology

In this day and age, face-to-face meetings seem to be a thing of the past.  As a result, North Dakota State University is continuously trying to ensure we offer various methods of communication and information delivery to our students.  Providing different forums for students and parents to utilize information most pertinent to them has proved to be quite effective.

This past week, NDSU implemented its first voice blast.  In the past, large numbers of students have always been contacted by e-mail.  Student feedback showed that e-mail was becoming less effective because of the sheer volume of messages they receive on a daily basis.  Students would repeatedly tell us they did not know we were waiting for a tax return transcript, MPN, or their FAFSA for the right year!   Given the volume of students we needed to contact and the importance of the information, we knew we couldn’t send an e-mail that would be ignored. We needed an effective way to contact our students quickly!   Our office researched and ultimately decided that an automated calling service could help us solve this issue of contacting students quickly and efficiently.   This past week we sent our first voice blast to 830 students that have not responded to our request for verification documents needed for the fall semester.  A mere 30 minutes after the blast was initiated, we received roughly 50 calls back from students.  This process quickly prompted students that weren’t attending our institution to notify us and alerted students that were unaware they were selected for verification.  Only time will tell how many more students will receive their financial aid on time.  This process is new, but we hope that it will help us communicate more effectively with this new generation of students.

July will mark our third live chat session which is held in collaboration with the Admission Office, for incoming freshman and transfer students.  Representatives from Admission and Financial Aid are available online to answer general questions in the “lobby”, or more specific personal questions via private chat with specific users.  The lobby allows us to welcome students and parents, offer general information and links, or invite them to chat privately if they have specific questions.  The chats are scheduled for 2 hours in the evening for the convenience of those who cannot contact us during regular business hours.  Due to the success of the live chats and the positive feedback received from students and parents, we will be offering them on a monthly basis from March through July beginning in 2016.

Lastly, social media has become one of our fun, yet informative strategies that has proved helpful in reaching students and parents.  It seems like everyone is on social media these days, even your dish soap and deodorant brands have a profile, so why not the financial aid office?  Our office manages both a Facebook and Twitter account.  We post to our social media accounts daily with information on a variety of topics such as money management, scholarships, and employment.  Our content comes from a variety of sources and is prescheduled to be sent out three to five times each day utilizing a free online product called Hootesuite.  Hootesuite, and other products like it, allow us to curate content for our social media sites as well as create our own content and preschedule it for the upcoming week, month, or year.  This has been a fun way to engage with students and parents and share important information.  We will frequently share or retweet articles from Federal Student Aid, who also offer a variety of great resources to share with students and parents.

–Andrew Berntson, Association News Committee Member North Dakota

Andy Berntson

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