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Registrar and Financial Aid Offices: Developing and Maintaining a Working Relationship

If an audit began today, would your registrar and financial aid offices be ready to collaborate seamlessly? A strong collaborative relationship between the registrar and financial aid office is integral in compliance reporting, especially during an audit. Our grounding is based on the 100 plus emails and calls the Audit Resource Center receives monthly from schools requesting our assistance during an audit. We have learned that institutions that have a good relationship between the registrar and financial aid offices can quickly assess the actions they need to take to ensure compliance reporting.

Each office owns important pieces of student enrollment information and has expertise that must converge to create the complete record. The challenge is how to make it work.

Opportunities for collaboration:

  • Communication: Communication between offices is key to effective collaboration, but this is an issue everywhere, not just between the registrar and financial aid offices. The questions are: How are those offices that have successful relationships addressing this challenge and making it work? What are the dos and don’ts for ensuring the two offices maintain good communication channels?
  • Technology: Properly implemented, technology enables efficiency gains. However, if one office is completely or partially excluded, the technology can prompt disagreement. Something else to consider is that, even if the technology is successful, it can turn into an impediment if it becomes a substitute for open and regular communication between the offices. Once again, how are offices that have successful implementations (including updates and other significant changes) making the cross-office collaboration work?
  • Processes and procedures: Most offices have well documented policies and operational processes, but there is a lot of sharing of the data between the two offices. Is there a mutual agreement on what data elements belong to which office and how they should be managed? Does each office know the effect changes to procedures can have on the other office? Are these documented, so if changes take place, the offices are prepared to take them into consideration?

These are only a few of the opportunities where the registrar and financial aid offices can work together to improve the rapport between their offices. The positive effects can expand well beyond an audit. So, what can be done to overcome the challenges that prevent some offices from moving into a collaborative relationship?

We have learned that the best advice comes from colleagues who have gone through some of the same trials. Share your experience and let us know: Have your offices successfully developed a beneficial relationship? What challenges have you faced? How do you maintain a collaborative relationship? What is working and what should be avoided?

We encourage you to share your feedback in the comments section.