Morgan Granstra, NCC

Morgan Granstra displays the old, paper-based scholarship application to the Northwest Iowa Community College Board of Trustees at a recent meeting. As the college’s foundation coordinator, Granstra presented the new, digital process that went into effect for the fall 2021 semester.

SHELDON—Scholarship applications at Northwest Iowa Community College have been streamlined to better assign financial assistance for students.

The two-year institution in Sheldon got rid of its tedious paper-based system at the end of the last academic year, with the fall 2021 semester being its first on a digital platform.

Foundation coordinator Morgan Granstra presented the scholarship makeover at the NCC board of trustees’ meeting in November.

“The main benefit for our students is that the application is much easier for them and the main benefit for us is that this software eliminates the possibility of human error with the past process,” Granstra said.

She held up the bulky ream that used to be required to fill out.

“Instead of them having to mark all of these boxes on the back of this book, as long as they complete the application and put in accurate information about themselves, they’re going to be matched to those scholarship opportunities automatically,” she said.

Most aid packages need the same information and ask similar essay questions. The software NCC is using — designed by Next Gen Web Solutions — rolls all that into a master application base and pairs students with scholarships they qualify for.

It also cuts down on the work hours needed to process the financial aid for the school.

Another feature is the ability to save progress and come back later, which Granstra said is especially helpful for lengthier open-ended questions some scholarships ask.

The ease of access has led to higher participation, jumping 25 percent from 2020. Granstra did note there was a slight dip because of COVID-19, but there still are more students filing than in pre-pandemic years.

“We’re definitely seeing a pretty significant increase in the number of scholarship applications turned in. So, that’s promising,” she said.

Granstra also said higher turnout ensures that the most deserving students get their best chance at academic aid.

Board member Steve Loshman said it was surprising the process was not online already and he was glad to see the development. Granstra agreed and said every user she has heard from favors the digital system. She noted the second-year students who have experienced both ways.

“We’ve heard a lot of positive feedback from them that they thought the online application was a lot easier and didn’t take them as much time,” Granstra said. “So far, yeah, everything is going well and we hope that continues.”

The coordinator also mentioned that Next Gen’s product costs considerably less than many other similar programs.

“We’re happy that we finally have it, but yes, it’s been a number of years that we’ve been exploring before getting this here,” Granstra said.