Staff at Johns Hopkins' financial aid offices are now
getting a little "aid" themselves.
As of last week, all eight academic divisions of the
university have now gone live with the new Student Aid
System, the Web-based and user-friendly financial aid
module of the Internet Student Information System.
Work on ISIS, Johns Hopkins' first universitywide,
fully integrated student information system, began in March
2001 and is expected to be completed in summer 2006. The
system, which revolutionizes how JHU provides student
administrative services, is divided into four "modules"
— admissions, billing, financial aid and
records/registration. To date, the ISIS admissions module
has been implemented at seven of the university's 12
admissions offices, and the student billing system has gone
live at all eight academic divisions.
What the Student Aid System effectively does is put
all seven of the university's financial aid offices on a
single database that is connected to ISIS' other modules.
Specifically, the SAS allows prospective or current
students to view online the status of their financial aid
application or a complete award history. In addition, it
allows students to accept or decline aid online, and in the
future will allow them to upload pertinent digital
documents to their financial aid records. As part of SAS'
communications component, students now regularly receive
detailed e-mails that inform them of their financial aid
By using SAS' built-in tools, financial aid office
staff now can automate the awarding of funds and more
easily enforce student aid policies and practices. Regular
updates and enhancements to the system will also ensure
that the university will be in compliance with changing
In fiscal year 2003-2004 alone, undergraduates at
Johns Hopkins received $34 million in grant awards and $7.4
million in loans. In total, undergraduates received $75.3
million in financial assistance last fiscal year in the
form of grants, loans, scholarships and work-study. At the
Homewood schools, 50 percent of undergraduates and 90
percent of graduate students receive some form of financial
Ellen Frishberg, director of the
Financial Services Office and project sponsor for the
Student Aid System, said that given the sheer number of
grants, loans and aid dollars that Johns Hopkins students
receive, the new system has been an extremely welcome
"With the successful implementation of the SAS, those
in the financial aid offices are now on the same system as
admissions, something that never occurred before,"
Frishberg said. "We now have real-time access to admissions
files and records as changes are made or students are
admitted. What this does is decrease the amount of time to
process an application and provide amazing
Frishberg said that the new system will decrease the
amount of administrative work and provide more accurate and
quicker access to data.
"From a management perspective, there are many pluses
to this new system. Efficiencies always save money, by
better compliance, lowered risk and more effective and
timely delivery of funds," she said. "Student-wise, while
those in the Homewood schools have had access to
self-services online for a few years, now all university
students will have this ability to go online and check
their financial aid information. A student can see if his
or her file is complete, accept or decline aid, or see if
it has been paid toward tuition."
Barbara Shaffer, executive director of ISIS, said that
the SAS project got off to a "rough start" as there were
some issues implementing a software system that has only
been used at one other institution. Due to the complex and
"immature" nature of the software system, the ISIS team
decided to implement the financial aid module in two
different phases. In phase one, the module was put in place
last year at the schools of Public Health, Medicine and
Nursing. In phase two, which concluded last week, the
module was implemented at the Arts and Sciences,
Engineering, Peabody, SAIS and SPSBE.
Anita Goodwin, director of the Financial Aid Office at
the Peabody Institute, said that while implementation has
been slow and not perfect, overall her office is pleased
with the new system.
"This should be much better for the students. The
legacy system did not have much ability for students to
interact with the system," she said. "It is currently a
slow system, meaning as you enter data, it takes a long
time for a screen to refresh with the new data, but we have
been told that new servers will be installed sometime
during the summer to alleviate some of the performance
Tom McDermott, financial aid team leader for the ISIS
project, said that Hopkins ITS staff have been working
"around the clock" on performance issues and that the
university will continue to work with the software vendor
to enhance and optimize the system's functionality.
For more information on the ISIS project, go to www.jhu.edu/isis.