Jun 02 2017

UC Davis Financial Aid Office Goes Mobile

Student information is kept secure in an efficient new filing system.

As digital copies replace paper trails, a new set of safeguards must follow. At the University of California, Davis, the financial aid department has partnered with CampusLogic, a financial aid platform that gives students a secure way to file important documentation via mobile devices.

The new mobile tool is a separate platform from the college's app that features workflows built into the system, including skip logic, communications tools, document upload, e-sign and mobile functionality. It is intended to support the verification of financial aid eligibility criteria, says Deborah Agee, director of UC Davis Financial Aid and Scholarships.

UC Davis’ decision to digitize the financial aid process comes after the U.S. Department of Education ended the Quality Assurance Program, an experimental program that let institutions choose which data points they wanted to verify.

“With the move to traditional federal verification standards, the number of students selected for verification more than doubled,” says Agee. “As a result, we looked for a tool that would streamline the process for students and families as well as the financial aid office.”

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Providing Security for Personally Identifiable Information

The federal government requires that financial aid offices verify data used in the calculation of a student’s and his or her family’s expected contribution, says Agee.

“These data points might require verification of identity documents like a Social Security card or visa, Selective Service registration, income, family size, etc.,” she adds. “This application provides the functionality necessary for a student to upload documents and provide an electronic signature where necessary.”

Access to the new app will be available as UC Davis moves into the verification process. As that transition moves forward, vendors of the application are expected to meet all legal and UC policy requirements and standards for protecting sensitive information, says Viji Murali, CIO for UC Davis and vice provost for information and educational technology.

“When [business] units buy a service or product that uses sensitive UC Davis data, the Information Security Office reviews the contract to check if the information is secured,” explains Murali. “Our [information security officer] worked with Financial Aid and reviewed this service before it was purchased.”

UC Davis doesn’t rely solely on vendors’ safeguards, instead it applies its own extensive protections, especially for sensitive data, Murali says.

Such protections must evolve as technology becomes increasingly complicated.

“Regardless of the tool or service, whether the means of access is an app or not, we continue to work in several areas to build our security services and resources, and adapt them to the changing landscape,” says Murali.

Precautions are the responsibility of the user, adds UC Davis Chief Information Security Officer Cheryl Washington. Whether the data belongs to students or to UC Davis, users need to be aware of their own role in safeguarding it.

“People need to know to use secure network connections and to not share passwords or private information — especially online,” she says. “The asset we’re protecting is information. Everyone is involved in this.”


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