For years, Cabrillo College was drowning in paper.
Their Financial Aid office was printing, filing and managing countless forms for the more than 10,000 students applying for aid each year.
The staff was overwhelmed by mail, spending up to five or six hours each day managing thousands of incoming and outgoing documents and still falling behind. It was then that Cabrillo knew they needed a change.
“I honestly didn’t know anything about document imaging before this,” says Lena Mason, Cabrillo’s Financial Aid Technology Specialist. “But I met a Softdocs representative at a tradeshow, and even though he knew I wasn’t able to fund a solution yet, he let me ask any question I wanted. With his help, I was able to understand what we wanted from a document management solution.” After funding came through, Cabrillo went out to bid, and came down to Softdocs and one other provider.
“We actually went down to Columbia, SC for on-site visits with some of their current customers. It was really helpful because we were able to see what worked for other people and what didn’t.”
Cabrillo conducted on-site visits with the other provider’s customers too, but ultimately decided Softdocs would be the best option for them.
“We chose Softdocs because of their e-forms, every other vendor we looked at just focused on managing our paper. Softdocs was the only provider who actually wanted to help us eliminate the need for paper to begin with.”
Softdocs’ Electronic Forms and Workflow solutions now digitize every paper-based form that Cabrillo’s students need to complete for Financial Aid. The e-forms are pre-populated with a student’s information determined by their user data. Each e-form is built with specific rules and field triggers to minimize incorrect answers and eliminate incomplete e-forms.
“When you’re processing and reviewing hundreds of forms each day, it already takes a while for a student to receive their aid—an incomplete form just delays that even more. But with the e-forms solution, we can make it so a form cannot be submitted until the student has filled out all of the necessary fields,” says Mason.
As any Financial Aid employee knows, paper-based PDF forms can cause more problems than they fix. Even if a student correctly fills out the information the first time, the number of ways the form can get lost or damaged on the way to the Financial Aid office is staggering.
Students might crumple up a form at the bottom of their bookbag or spill their morning coffee on it. Paper forms can get lost or damaged in the mail, accidentally mixed in with other students’ forms, or otherwise get “lost in the shuffle.” And most of the time, it’s an innocent Financial Aid employee who gets an earful from a frustrated student looking for their aid.
According to Mason, call volume to the Financial Aid office has dropped dramatically and most of the calls now are simple questions regarding the e-forms solution rather than time-consuming demands for proof that a form was received.