The University of Illinois at Chicago

Facts:

  • Location: Chicago, Illinois
  • Enrollment: 27,900
  • Number of Scholarship Funds: 520
  • AcademicWorks Customer Since 2015

Problem: Decentralized Oversight

Although awarding scholarships has always been a priority for the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), the decentralized oversight of those awards made managing them difficult. “Each of our colleges and departments had their unique method of collecting scholarship applications, making awards, and notifying award recipients,” says Beth Powers, Director of Special Scholarship Programs at the University. “Each college was using a different tool to administer scholarships, too,” she added. Some were using web-based tools, some Qualtrics, and others plain PDF documents.  Despite the fact that over 50% of their students attend the University using Pell Grants, the campus did not have a single location to send these high-need students to find scholarships.

“We began a comprehensive scholarship management program restructuring in 2014,” says Powers. “AcademicWorks was an important part of the improvements,” she notes. The plan included reducing IT resources within FERPA compliance, while at the same time increasing access to scholarships for students.

Implementing AcademicWorks

Scholarship administration at UIC is traditionally decentralized, and AcademicWorks still allows each college and department to facilitate their custom scholarship process as they always have.  “The platform just makes it easy to have general oversight of where each college and department is in the awarding process,” says Powers. “The team loves the ability to use current data to look at candidates based on various criteria more easily than they could do in the past,” she notes. They also love working with the AcademicWorks support team. “Whenever we have a question, the AcademicWorks team is there to help,” says Powers.

The scholarship administrators in each college and or department set up their scholarship qualifications based on the donor agreement.  Those departments make the final awards after working with a review committee.  Review committee members can score applications online and provide their recommendation to the administrator.  Reviewers are trained to use AcademicWorks after participating in a short, easy online tutorial.

“We wanted all scholarship administrators to be on campus to be as excited about the AcademicWorks product as we were so we invited departmental staff into the sales demonstrations,” says Powers.  “The whole scholarships program has always been such a “hot potato” in most of our colleges and departments that the staff was extremely excited to have a consistent, easy-to-use platform to manage the process,” says Powers.

“We were careful to start implementing the new platform in May when most people had time on their hands to learn the new tool,” says Powers. Each semester, UIC provides training for people who would like a refresher or are new to managing scholarships on campus.  They have found that, after an administrator goes through training one time, people retain knowledge and can navigate through AcademicWorks easily.

The UIC’s goal was to have 50% of the colleges using AcademicWorks in the first year. At the beginning of the second year with AcademicWorks, 11 of 13 colleges are now using the solution to make scholarships awards.  “We are now working to get the last two colleges on board,” says Powers.

Because UIC has a team of cross-functional scholarship administrators working from the same platform, “Our students have the ability to view scholarships campus-wide from one site,” says Powers.

Promoting Scholarships

“We call our AcademicWorks scholarship website “UIC SnAP” to make it easy for students and faculty to remember the name,” says Powers.  UIC SnAP stands for Scholarship and Awards Program. To promote UIC SnAP, the University distributes colorful fliers on campus and sends notifications out in a weekly email to their student listserv. “Our campus staff also know to direct students to the website,” says Powers.

One of the new parts of AcademicWorks that UIC tested out this year was collecting thank-you letters and photos of award recipients directly through AcademicWorks.  “We found that over 50% of students submitted their information right away through AcademicWorks,” said Powers. “The remainder provided information after just a gentle reminder,” she noted. “Next year we want to expand the use of this functionality across campus and provide a standard thank-you letter template for all students to use,” she says.  “AcademicWorks has changed the scholarship culture on campus and made it easy to present award information to students,” Powers concludes.

 

Simplify Scholarship Management

AcademicWorks continues to improve the way the University of Illinois at Chicago manages their scholarships. Please contact us to see how we can assist your campus.