University switches to electronic software for scholarships

By Staff Writer Taylor Simpson

UNA’s Office of Student Financial Services implemented a new electronic system for scholarship management from AcademicWorks that will allow scholarship candidates to be electronically matched to scholarships they qualify for.

Many students depend on scholarships to help fund their college education. UNA offers approximately 250 endowed scholarships for students, each with a different set of qualifications for its recipient.

The University of North Alabama Office of Student Financial Services is responsible for matching scholarships with potential recipients.

“I feel that UNA is fortunate to be able to utilize this product,” said Shauna James, director of Student Financial Services.

Previously, endowed scholarship applications were sorted by hand.

“It was work to find recipients for some of (the scholarships) because the selection criteria is so narrow,” James said.

James said about 800-900 students usually submit an endowed scholarship application.

“In the past, we printed all the applications, sorted them by major, and sent the paper applications to the departments. Then the departments had to review all applications to see who would qualify for the scholarships in that department,” James said.

James said the new streamlined process will save Student Financial Services staff “many hours.”

Despite the difficulty of finding students who matched scholarship criteria, most scholarships do get matched to a student, James said.

“For the 17-18 academic year, the vast majority of the endowed scholarships were awarded,” she said.

The process will be the same for students who apply, but different for Student Financial Services and academic department staff.

“It’s still an online application,” she said. “But now, scholarship review committees will be able to search through applications electronically.”

James oversaw the implementation of the new system.

“We may be able to learn from (this system) and be able to streamline some other processes,” James said.

Sophomore Karlie Gilbreath said the electronic system could eliminate human error.

“There may be some students who qualify for scholarships that have unintentionally been overlooked when the applications were sorted,” she said.

She said the electronic system makes her feel more confident about her application.

Any student who has been admitted to UNA can apply for an endowed scholarship through the Student Financial Services page on UNA’s website.

Scholarship applications will still be due Feb. 1 for the following academic year. Scholarships are usually matched with student recipients by March 15, James said.

“Hopefully, we will be able to stay within that same timeline for this spring,” James said.