Liaison’s EMP™ is Rebuilding the Financial Aid Award Letter: One Institution at a Time

Ben Boivin
Feb 7, 2019

Imagine purchasing a car without a full explanation of the total cost. Or booking a family vacation to Disney World without a budget. Would you agree to a mortgage payment on a new home if you were unclear on the bottom line?

When it comes to spending money, the average consumers crave clarity. Liaison’s Enrollment Marketing Platform (EMP™) Division is currently improving our clients’ financial aid award packages to make them more comprehendible, visually attractive and personalized for students and their families.

As tuition continues to be one of the most important decision-making factors, the financial aid award letter is becoming a vital piece of the enrollment marketing process. According to a 2018 survey of 36,000 incoming freshmen, 43% of students nationwide are accepted to at least four colleges. On top of that, 83% of respondents considered financial aid packages to be “very important” when making their financial decision. How does your financial aid award stand out compared to competing institutions?

By utilizing Liaison’s creative services and experienced higher education professionals, partner institutions now have the opportunity to turn traditional financial documents into powerful, multi-channel marketing strategies. Our next-generation financial aid award letters are seamlessly integrated with personalized landing pages, email and text nurture campaigns.

The prospective students of today are master overthinkers.

They are concerned about taking out their first loans, choosing a major, academically succeeding and finding a career. Your goal should be to make the financial aid process the easy part. We find that Generation Z cares less about the institution and more about their future, in regard to net price and post-graduation debt. Highlighting the total cost with straightforward grant and loan descriptions is only one small part of what the financial aid award should contain.

Consider the time and energy invested into the college recruitment process. From prospect to inquiry. Inquiry to applicant. Applicant to accepted. You work hard to keep your potential incoming students engaged, and once you have their attention at the most pivotal point in the funnel, don’t lose it with boring award letters. From the neediest of students to the ones that seem to ignore your communication throughout senior year — they all seek a sense of belonging wherever they wind up attending. Award letters and the financial aid process should be more than just dollar signs. This is a perfect opportunity to provide value, prove that you are invested in every student, and drive home the message that your institution is worth every penny and then some.

Whether sending home financial aid awards to first-generation students or families with a long legacy in a particular institution, it is imperative that every accepted student know the specific admissions representative to contact for support. Some of our partner institutions prefer to add a personalized counselor letter with contact information in addition to formal messaging from the vice president of enrollment or director of financial aid. Other schools prefer content-heavy financial aid packages complete with an FAQ section and itemized descriptions of each and every detail. We have found that a truly successful financial aid award letter specifies the next steps, so that families new to the process are confident about their decision. Details are important, but providing a path will empower your prospects.

There is comfort in clarity.

Our powerful marketing platform serves as a second line of support by providing immediate responses to every student interaction. From the minute a family opens their award letter, they are invited to interact digitally through a personalized microsite. The enrollment marketing professionals at Liaison collaborate with admissions offices to customize the best financial aid landing sites:

  • Optional post-award surveys are used to gauge interest and determine satisfaction.
  • Next-step checklists are set up to avoid enrollment deposit confusion.
  • Families have the opportunity to schedule an appointment to discuss financial aid face-to-face or register for a campus visit prior to submitting a deposit.
  • Contact information is once again provided and institutional values are reiterated.
  • Major-specific career outcomes and relatable student testimonials are expressed.

In an ideal world, finances would never get in the way of the college decision-making process. Prospective students would fall in love with your institution. Their grades, personalities and extracurricular activities would deem them acceptable with no questions asked from your admissions team. You would send home an acceptance letter and within 24 hours, they would submit their enrollment deposit online. A sweatshirt gets purchased. A selfie gets taken. And Louis Armstrong’s version of “What a Wonderful World” plays in the background.

Unfortunately, that isn’t the case. The enrollment process is grueling for the majority of admissions offices and the incoming students who they seek. With our innovative award letters and reimagined approach, we strive to make the entire process less financially frustrating and more family friendly for everyone.

Ben Boivin

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Over the last three decades, Liaison has helped over 40,000 programs on more than 1,200 campuses more effectively manage admissions through its Centralized Application Service (CAS™) technology and complementary application processing and support services. The higher education technology leader supports its partner institutions’ total enrollment goals by pairing CAS with its Enrollment Marketing (EM) platform as well as the recently acquired TargetX (CRM) and advanced analytics software Othot.