Project Orion to Smooth Financial Aid Process

Campus Software Project to Give Students More Information More Quickly

May 23, 2008

With more than half of UT Dallas’ student body receiving financial aid annually, it’s hard to imagine that the entire process isn’t one that happens by way of a computer screen and a few key strokes. Currently, though, when a student gets assistance through the University’s Financial Aid Office, the job is handled the old-fashioned way: by hand.

Next school year, the process is expected to go more smoothly for UT Dallas students and staff alike, thanks to new technology being implemented through Project Orion. The upgrade will allow financial aid staff to disburse loan, grant and scholarship information more quickly and efficiently, sometimes in a week or less.

Previously, it could take up to a month to sort aid eligibility and availability. Because students can see the results sooner, they’ll be able to understand their financial options and awards earlier.

“In the past, we’ve had to package award information manually, student by student and record by record,” explained Cathy Coursey, interim director of financial aid.

“With Orion’s PeopleSoft technology, we’ll be able to group students and implement mass packaging,” she said. “The amount of time we’ll save with this new system will allow us to serve students more quickly and to increase the volume of those served so that we can keep pace with the planned-for increase in enrollment called for in our Strategic Plan.”

Mass packaging means Orion will help handle tasks such as selecting which students are eligible for loans and for what amount. Staffers will be able to concentrate more on helping students.

“We’ll have more time to answer phone calls, offer dedicated, one-on-one meetings and focus on outreach activities like college fairs,” Coursey added.

Before they can qualify for aid, all undergraduate and graduate students applying for federal, state and some institutional funds must complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

James Dorman, a technical team lead for the financial aid team, said students will also notice improvements in the online self-service windows, which will offer greater access to online forms and more information about the progress of loan applications.

“With the update, students will be able to collapse and expand comment screens with links to forms we’ll need in order to complete their applications,” Dorman said. “They also will be able to reduce the amount of their loans or determine where their applications are in the approval process. In short, they’ll have greater flexibility over their records.”

Under construction now, the new PeopleSoft financial aid module is expected to go live in February.

About Project Orion
Orion is a Web-based information portal that will one day manage virtually every aspect of a student’s academic career, from registering for classes to paying parking fines, to applying for graduation. Orion operates on the PeopleSoft Campus Solutions platform, a comprehensive suite of software that gives users real-time information. When completed, Orion will serve nearly every consumer of University data, including students, faculty and staff. For more information about Orion, please visit the project Web site at www.utdallas.edu/orion.


Media contacts: Jenni Huffenberger, UT Dallas, (972) 883-4431, jennib@utdallas.edu
or the Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, newscenter@utdallas.edu

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More information about Project Orion is available at www.utdallas.edu/orion.

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