97% of students recently surveyed told us that they believe their university should deliver financial information and advice to students.
The thing is, as we all know, students are extremely digital expectant. In fact, survey results published just before the pandemic in March 2020, found that 90% of students are concerned with a consistent digital experience from their university and placed significant importance on having online access to administrative information processes. So much so that 59% indicated they would consider switching to a different university if it provided better levels of technology and innovation.
If that was then, imagine now! It’s likely students’ feelings about the importance of technology will have increased following the year we’ve all just had, where pretty much every experience has been ‘digital first’.
Of course, when it comes to financial support for students, there’s clear value in the help that a staff member can offer – it can be personalised and tailored to the student’s individual situation. Yet in this digital world, a blend of both online and offline is likely the best approach to supporting students’ financial wellbeing, with students supported by staff on a one-to-one basis but also able to access helpful and relevant resources digitally around the clock.
1. Meet students’ expectations
Students engage with technology in all aspects of their life – for communicating, paying money to friends, ordering food – the list goes on! In today’s increasingly digital environment, young people expect technology to be involved in pretty much every experience and can find it jarring when it’s not.
As every cohort of students continues to become more digitally savvy and digitally expectant than the one before, it will become more and more important for institutions to incorporate technology into their financial support offering to meet students’ expectations.
2. Demonstrate innovation
Use of technology to enhance financial support won’t only help universities and colleges meet the expectations of enrolled students; it will also support recruitment strategies and provide institutions with a competitive edge at open days.
Those who take advantage of the opportunity technology presents will be demonstrating innovation and showing prospective students their institution has its finger on the pulse.
3. Provide support 24/7
A consequence of digital expectancy is that students may presume access to a degree of financial guidance and advice will be made available by their place of study 24/7. And of course financial worries can occur anytime, with support needed outside of staff office hours.
Providing relevant information and resources for students to turn to whatever the time of day or day of the week, means they may be less likely to consult Google or other sources instead – where they may discover factually incorrect or unsound advice.
If feeling unsupported and desperate, students may also turn to methods of financial support and additional income that carry a level of risk, including payday loans, uninformed crypto trading, Buy Now Pay Later services, and betting and gambling. Students may then turn to support staff for help navigating any fallout from this.
Ensuring a degree of financial guidance and advice is available online for students to access whenever they need it can be a great way to provide a holistic support offering, alongside the personalised help staff are able to give to students during working hours.
This is also true when incorporating technology into the application process for students applying for financial support from their university or college. If students can apply online independently, they can work on and submit their application when it best suits them, from wherever they may be.
4. Free up staff time
Introducing technology for financial support not only benefits students, but it can also help greatly in unlocking staff time and adding capacity – particularly when it comes to managing the financial support application process.
If staff have the ability to automate actions and reduce the volume of manual admin required, they can dedicate more time to where they believe it will have the greatest impact, as well as focus on proactive activities to support students’ financial wellbeing.
5. Ease pressure for everyone
Additional time and capacity can help ease pressure on staff – but that’s not all; use of technology when it comes to applying for financial support from an institution can also reduce stress for students.
This is particularly true if applicants are able to find answers to their status-related queries themselves. We recently asked students what is most important to them when it comes to the financial support application process and in the ‘tick all that apply’ question, the most common answers were:
- Being able to see the status of the application (67%)
- Being able to submit the application quickly (67%)
- Having the ability to do everything online (64%)
So not only can a digital application experience ease stress for students by helping them find answers to questions themselves and guide them through the process, but it also comes back to meeting students’ expectations too.
A holistic financial support offering
There you have it! Five reasons to consider using technology for student financial support, with clear benefits for both staff and students.
As we mentioned at the start, it’s not a case of either/or; a holistic financial support offering for students that involves a blend of both online and offline (in-person/phone) support from staff is the best bet when it comes to supporting students’ financial wellbeing.
This will also help ensure there’s something available for every student, no matter their individual circumstances or preference for seeking advice and guidance.
If you’d like to find out more about incorporating technology into the financial support application process at your university or college, download the info pack to learn more about our Funds Management System and our latest addition, Instant Payments. Or join us for a live demo of the system, with colleagues on hand to answer any questions you may have.
Finally, don’t forget to sign up to our staff newsletter for our latest reports, blogs and free financial wellbeing resources to share with students!