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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University April 4, 2005 | Vol. 34 No. 28
A Major Milestone for ISIS

Financial aid module now live in all academic divisions

By Greg Rienzi
The Gazette

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 status.

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 federal regulations.

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 aid.

Ellen Frishberg, director of the Homewood Student 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 one.

"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 efficiencies."

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 issues."

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


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