2018-2019 Program Review
1.1 Briefly describe the program-level planning unit. What is the unit's purpose and function?
American River College is eligible as an Institution of Higher Education and as a Postsecondary Vocational Institution (legally authorized by the State of California, accredited, and with acceptable admissions policies) to participate in the federal and state financial aid programs. The mission of the American River College Financial Aid Office is to provide assistance to students in their quest for financial aid as a means to assist with their cost of attendance. The Financial Aid Office awards all eligible applicants in a fair and consistent manner according to federal and state regulations and institutional policies. American River College’s Financial Aid Office provides financial aid information and application assistance to all current and prospective students. We strive to provide expedited financial assistance and are continually working to improve our processes and services to students.
The staff of the Financial Aid Office consists of:
1 Financial Aid Supervisor
9 Financial Aid Officers
6 Financial Aid Clerk II
Varying cadre of Temporary and Student staff
Programs administered include Federal Pell Grant, Federal Supplemental Opportunity Grant, Federal Direct Loans, Cal Grant, SSCG Grant, California Promise Grant, Los Rios Promise Program, Federal Work Study, As well as scholarships and other forms of outside aid.
The financial aid office supports the mission of American River College by increasing opportunities for students to access higher education by helping students and their families seek, obtain, and make the best use of all financial resources available to them. Students and prospective students can access assistance with completing applications and submitting documents in the financial aid lab. The front counter offers assistance with questions and aid status checks, and FA officers are available for individual appointments as needed as well. The financial aid office also participates in outreach events intended to increase awareness of the different types of financial aid available and what the requirements are for eligibility. Additionally, financial aid awarding to Pell recipients directly contributes to the Student-Focused Funding Model and supports the resources available for the college to continue offering high qualities educational programs and services.
Assessment and Analysis
The program review process asks units to reflect on the progress they've made towards achieving the goals they identified in each of the Annual Unit Plans they submitted since their last Program Review.
Follow this link to access your previous EMP submissions. For assistance accessing the EMP system, please contact Mary Goodall at GoodalM@arc.losrios.edu or (916) 484-4535.
2.1 Consider the progress that has been made towards the unit's objectives over the last six years. Based on how the unit intended to measure progress towards achieving these objectives, did the unit's prior planned
action steps (last six years of annual unit plans) result in the intended effect or the goal(s) being achieved?
Financial Aid Student Success (2008-2014) 1.2 Information Develop and disseminate financial aid information to current and prospective students. A new orientation is being developed to assist student learning. New online videos are in production to aid student learning.
*FATV has been utilized and multiple videos embedded within the Financial Aid Website to provide information to students on a range of information.
Financial Aid Student Success (2008-2014) 1.2 Personal assistance Provide assistance in the financial aid application and awarding process. This assistance would be of high value in an expanded, hands on Lab where most student financial aid questions and processes are completed collaboratively. The FA Lab was expanded to over 20 computers and additional staffing has been added to support students. Summer 2015 Completed
Financial Aid Student Success (2008-2014) 1.4 Computer Lab Acquire a computer lab to create better access to financial aid programs and service for needy students. A lab was acquired in 2011, but only became a dedicated Financial Aid Lab in 2013. Expansion of the Lab to accommodate 20 - 25 students is still needed Ongoing Completed
*The Financial Aid Lab has been a successful tool in increasing access to financial aid for students. Having staff available to assist students with questions, documents, and applications has been beneficial to the student population
Financial Aid Organizational Effectiveness (2008-2014) 5.3 reporting Certify and report financial aid date to appropriate agencies. Spring 2016 Completed
Financial Aid Access and Growth (2008-2014) 3.1 Outreach Efforts Meet with feeder high schools once a year. Provide accurate and timely information supportive of the institutions recruitment effort. Summer 2015 Completed
Financial Aid outreach has increased and has included Cash for College workshops in partnership with the State of California
Financial Aid Student Success (2008-2014) 1.2 Student focus Group solicit students to participate in a focus group to help identify areas of improvement for the financial aid office. Spring 2009 Completed
The following data sets may be useful in promoting and informing departmental dialogue, planning, decision making, and resource allocation.
Email Standard Data Set link
In addition to reflecting on the metrics shown above, it may prove useful to analyze other program-level data to assess the effectiveness of your unit.
For instructional units, ARC’s Data on demand system can be used to provide program and course
level information regarding equitable outcomes, such as program access or enrollment, successful course completion, and degree or certificate achievement
(up to 30+ demographic or course filters are available).
You might also consider pursuing other lines of inquiry appropriate to your unit type (instructional, student support, institutional/administrative support).
Refer to the Program Review Inquiry Guide for specific lines of inquiry.
2.2 What were the findings? Please identify program strengths, opportunities, challenges, equity gaps, influencing
factors (e.g., program environment), data limitations, areas for further research, and/or other items of interest.
The main financial aid programs which serve students who show the most financial "need" as determined by the FAFSA include the Pell grant, California Promise Grant, CalGrant, and Direct Loans.
Pell Grant numbers have decreased over the past several years.
2012/2013 - 11157
2013/2014 - 10455
2014/2015 - 9898
2015/2016 - 9809
2016/2017 - 8842
2017/2018 - 8424
Pell grant recipients is a determining factor in the new funding formula for the state of California. Significant energy is being put into determining how to reach more eligible students and award them Pell grants with the hope that additional financial resources will increase student success.
California Promise Grant (previously BOG waiver)
2012/2013 - 38385
2013/2014 - 38070
2014/2015 - 35494
2015/2016 - 33194
2016/2017 - 27918
2017/2018 - 28742
Cal Grant - including B & C awards CADAA students are California Dream Act
2012/2013 - 4246 CADAA - 0
2013/2014 - 4734 CADAA - 26
2014/2015 - 5269 CADAA - 44
2015/2016 - 4950 CADAA - 57
2016/2017 - 4808 CADAA - 69
2017/2018 - 5331 CADAA - 67
Direct Loan Default rates
2012 - 26.3%
2013 - 24.8%
2014 - 23.1%
2015 - 18.2 %
2016 - (draft) 17.3%
Appeals/Satisfactory Academic Progress
2014-2015 Award Year
2324 Total Appeals
2015-2016 Award Year
1351 Total Appeals
2016-2017 Award Year
1368 Total Appeals
2017-2018 Award Year
1171 Total Appeals
R2T4 (return to title iv) How many students dropped their classes and aid had to be returned to the Federal Government
2012 - 1149
2013 - 1191
2014 - 2474
2015 - 2276
2016 - 2061
2017 - 1630
Reflection and Dialog
3.1 Discuss how the findings relate to the unit's effectiveness. What did your unit learn from the analysis and how
might the relevant findings inform future action?
Going over the findings, it is noticeable that numbers all declined at the time of the PeopleSft implementation. During this time, college enrollment also declined substantially. Three years ago, during the implementation of PeopleSoft, staff were unfamiliar with the new financial aid platform, The staff are now more knowledgeable regarding the financial aid system. Many business processes required a change to work with the new system efficiently, and these changes are still underway. The current make up of the ARC financial aid department is that each of the nine officers specialize in one program or several small programs. This has led to bottlenecks in processing when the workload increases due to the natural workload cycle. In addition, when an officer leaves their employment at ARC, they take systemic and program knowledge with them; filling in these gaps is challenging. An additional challenge within the department's organization is the lack of team mentality. Each officer experiences times of increased workload but cannot ask for assistance from their fellow officers because the other officers do not necessarily know how to process work within the respective program. If the officer in charge of a program is out sick and a student comes in with a question, then they likely must wait until the return of that officer for answers. Cross training has been taking place over the past year, and the findings highlight that this needs to continue and increase.
The decrease in awards also shows a gap in student awareness and availability for staff to engage in outreach. Students may not realize that they are eligible for financial aid or get lost in the process so they give up when they may only need to submit a form. The lab and front counter have made information and assistance more accessible to students, but this is a passive support structure. Presently, our efforts toward students who may not be able to come to the campus or those who "don't know what to do next" needs to be improved. This is particularly evident with our appeals process. We are working on making the process more accessible and raise awareness for students so they can appeal when they are not meeting the Satisfactory Academic Progress. This is required in order for these students to receive financial aid, and efforts to improve appeal submissions is needed.
The new system changed the way that financial aid is processed over all. Officers now spend the majority of their time working through reports in order to manually award students who have circumstances that prevent the mass packaging being run at the District Level from funding them. This means less time for face-to-face meetings with students, attending outreach events, or working towards improving the processes within the department. This has also led to a high staff turnover. Staff and district-wide processes need to relinquish the old procedures for processing financial aid and allow PeopleSoft to function as it is designed.
The finding show several areas where improvements are needed including:
Increasing our number of Pell recipients
Increasing the number of students who submit appeals
Cross-training, new business processes to improve processing time, and a team approach to student files
Capture more eligible students with improved nudge campaigns to raise student awareness
3.2 What is the unit's ideal future and why is it desirable to ARC? How will the unit's aspirations support accomplishment of the mission, improve institutional effectiveness, and/or increase academic quality?
The ideal future for the financial aid department is a more student-oriented department. Enhancements to outreach, financial literacy, and default management are all needed to educate our students regarding aid types available to them, how to budget their aid, and how to avoid unnecessary loan debt. The staff within the financial aid office needs to be trained in multiple programs in order to become more versatile and proactive towards student concerns. A team approach needs to be implemented in two phases: 1. Phase One would have three program-based teams, each supporting a major program as well as some of the smaller programs. This composition would include three members each for a Pell team, a Loan team, & a CalGrant/state/institutional aid team. Each team will have 3 officers and 2 clerks (with supporting part-time staff) to contribute to team workloads. This organization will allow officers to gain expertise on the programs within the team and will allow the officers to support each other as workloads increase during peak times. 2. Phase Two would blend the three program-based teams into a new composition of the three teams. This would provide one officer representing each program with support from other team program leads, when needed. Processing would be divided by the Guided Pathways areas of interest and provide more personalized attention to students.
The SAP/Appeals process is currently managed by a single financial aid officer, this program could be shifted to an SPA position (currently vacant) which would free up the officer-level responsibilities for processing of aid. PeopleSoft is being continuously improved at the District level, and a new Specialist was recently hired by the district. It is expected that this hire will improve the actual processing of financial aid allowing the financial aid staff at the college level to focus more time on students and less on working through reports.
4.1 Identify/define one or more program-level objectives which enhance the unit's effectiveness. What does your unit intend to do to work towards its ideal future? How will success be measured?
1. Increase Pell awards by 2%
Working with the District Office to identify students who may be eligible or who have not completed the FAFSA, we will then reach out to students to educate and encourage students to complete their financial aid files in order to receive their appropriate financial aid packages. Coordination with the ARC Call center will enhance this effort.
2. Increase number of appeals received by 2%
Increasing communication to students who are not meeting SAP requirements and assisting them with the appeal process by offering workshops and reducing appeal requirements. ARC will also begin allowing students to appeal each term rather than restricting appeals to one opportunity per award year. Currently, students cannot appeal more than once per award year, and without financial aid, they are forces to put their education on hold; many may never return to ARC. By allowing students the opportunity to explain their individual situations, some may be able to continue to receive aid and complete their educational goals.
3. Find ways to include more demographic information on reporting for the financial aid department.
Currently demographics are not tracked in any of the financial aid reports this makes finding ways to assist disproportionately impacted groups difficult. Work with the Institutional Research Office will be needed to support this endeavor.
4.2 How will the unit's intended enhancements support ARC's commitment to social justice and equity?
Any enhancements that increase the number of eligible students who are awarded funding at ARC directly impacts DI groups. Additionally, enhancements to the PeopleSoft system or business processes that decrease processing time positively impact our entire financial aid student population. These enhancements directly benefit students from DI groups by providing more aid eligibility and provides aid to students earlier. This improves classroom success because needed materials and stressors regarding resources can be met early in the educational cycle. This helps students with preparation for course work and focuses attention toward scholastic endeavors. Additionally, improving the number of students receiving financial aid adds to the diversity of the college's student population, thus removing isolation barriers that many students experience. By improving the appeals process in particular, students who face obstacles such as medical issues, homelessness, abuse, mental illness, or family losses will have more opportunities to regain financial aid so they can continue with their studies. This directly impacts students who experience cultural and societal barriers that impact educational persistence and long-term success.