Many students are experiencing new challenges and difficulties that have hindered their ability to focus on their academic endeavors, due to COVID-19. Many College Forward students are experiencing these same challenges and are in need of some extra support as they begin a new school year. After communicating with these students, there seems to be an overall trend of financial instability. Students and their families continue to experience job loss and the inability to afford their basic needs.
College Forward has developed an emergency relief fund dedicated to providing financial assistance and support to our most affected students. In the past four months, we have disbursed ~$35,000 to our students in need. As we continue to distribute these funds, we are using CoPilot, a 360-Degree student information system built on the Salesforce.com platform, to help manage the various requests.
What Issues Are Students Facing?
A Trend of Financial Instability is affecting our students; job loss affects them the most.
After a student contacts the Coach or Program Coordinator, our staff creates a new case within CoPilot. Then, they store the student’s information within the newly created case. This information includes the reason a student has requested funds and other forms of documentation.
After creating a case, our team members use the Chatter functionality housed within CoPilot to stay informed and discuss the next steps. By monitoring progress status, Program Managers can track the completion of all requests from beginning to end. This form of case management has allowed our team to efficiently and successfully distribute funds to CoFo students.
Case Management Dashboard
CoPilot Dashboards can manage different types of student data. The Dashboard featured below showcases how College Forward is collecting the information gained from fund requests. Our Student Services team can keep track of the total requested funds and even more detailed metrics, such as each request’s progress status.
Mass Text Messaging Integration
The CoPilot MogliSMS integration has also been an essential part of our entire disbursement process. With so many students, each of them needed to be well-informed about this financial opportunity. At first, we sent out a marketing email informing our students about their new emergency relief fund.
We then used the email analytics to design follow up communications based on our students’ engagement with that email. Using the MogliSMS integration, we sent out a mass text message asking all their students if they received the previous marketing email. Students replied with either “Yes” or “No” depending on what applied to them, and we customized our responses accordingly.
Preparing To Serve Students Virtually
Before we could start disbursing funds to students, we needed to make sure we had enough financial support to the most pressing needs adequately. We sent proposals to various foundations to help finance the Student Emergency Scholarship Fund. We highlighted how each foundation’s monetary contributions would have a significant impact on our students dealing with financial uncertainties at this time. To date, our organization received over $100K in grants from foundations willing to support our mission and our students. These rewarded grants directly financed the Student Emergency Scholarship Fund and our operations to prepare virtual services to students. Preparations included creating new resources, and modifying existing resources and events to suit virtual delivery.
As we continue to disburse emergency funding, CoPilot provides the insight we need to adjust our services to better support CoFo students. The information gained from the Emergency Scholarship Fund disbursement will help our Student Services team for this semester and connect students to long-term resources. “We now know where we need to focus our resources and are actively connecting with community partners to find ways to ease the burdens our students are experiencing,” states Perez.
Moving Forward Towards Automation
After using CoPilot to create a new case management process, we are planning to make some modifications to our case management in preparation for this academic year. These include building in more automation for request approval and improved student data collection. For example, if they were to send another marketing email to our students regarding emergency funding, a new case would be created automatically based on each students’ responses. This automation would help our coaching team process requests at a much faster pace and leave more time to research new financial opportunities to better support students.