Valdosta State University Reduces Wait for Financial Aid
QLess solution streamlines operations and improves student services at regional university.
QLess technology allows students at Valdosta State University (VSU) to enter an online queue for appointments to meet with staff and get information on grants, loans, and scholarships at the Financial Aid office on campus.
- Large college saw lines going out the door, unhappy students, and a stressed staff.
- QLess allowed students to join virtual lines for campus services. Students were happy to get their time back and staff could get back to focusing on providing a great experience instead of the queue.
“Typically, we could have a group of 20 students in the lobby, with a queue outside of more than 100 people,” said Julian Vickers, Operations Manager for Financial Aid. “Since the introduction of QLess, there has been a noticeable reduction in wait times and an improvement in our student satisfaction levels that has resulted in higher retention rates.”
With QLess, VSU students no longer wait in long lines to access the services they need; instead, students arrive after receiving a summons text and complete their business quickly, using the time they save on other academic and campus activities. This use of QLess technology to improve the student experience reduces frustration and increases student retention rates.
“As I thought about the solution to the traffic problem in the Financial Aid office, I imagined all the features and functions it should include. What QLess delivers is exactly what I saw in my head.”
— Julian Vickers, Operations Manager for Financial Aid,Valdosta State University
When Mr. Vickers arrived at VSU in 2014 as the new Process Operations Manager for Financial Aid, one of the first tasks he needed to tackle was how to manage the student traffic to his office for Financial Aid. Congestion and long lines were the norm, with students often waiting hours to speak with staff members and apply for financial assistance. This led students to simply give up, and many of them did not continue their education.
“Long lines were especially a problem during peak periods – usually at the beginning of the semester, when everyone shows up at once,” said Mr. Vickers. “As I thought about the problem, I realized that almost every student was carrying some kind of mobile device, and I wondered if there was a solution using personal technology to better manage the traffic and reduce the wait times for students.”
In addition to eliminating long lines for students, the university wanted Financial Aid staff members to spend less time managing waiting room congestion and more time providing services to students.
Mr. Vickers reviewed a range of solutions before deciding to pilot the QLess solution in early 2015. Looking beyond the standard “take-a-number” solution, he was interested in something more dynamic and interactive.
“Prior to getting approval to use QLess, I did quite a lot of research into queuing solutions, and it was obvious from the start that QLess was the leader in both technology and reputation,” said Mr. Vickers. “Several phone calls and emails to other education institutions were met with a very positive response regarding QLess’ excellent service and effectiveness.”
In the fall of 2015, VSU launched QLess allowing students to schedule appointments via mobile phone, computer, or through on-site kiosks at the Financial Aid office. Ever since, students are free to attend class or engage in campus activities until their turn arrives, reducing their frustration and increasing the likelihood that they will complete the financial aid process. QLess communicates with students via text and voice message with status updates alerting them of delays or changes, and provides the option to reschedule an appointment without losing their place in line.
Since deploying QLess, VSU’s Financial Aid immediately reduced lines and significantly affected student wait times. In the initial days, the only challenge in reducing the lines further was convincing students they didn’t have to wait – they could leave and go about their business, returning at their appointment time and serviced immediately – but most picked up on the convenience very quickly.
“A feature that has garnered significant interest is the ease in which QLess scales,” said Mr. Vickers. “Now that our office is fully established with QLess, we have other departments and institutions curious about how it works. In fact, I have fielded more inquiries about QLess than any other project I have participated in since being here. It feels good to be able to brag about choosing QLess and its effectiveness.”
With the successful pilot in Financial Aid, VSU expects to rollout QLess in other offices across campus to gain the same improvements in student satisfaction and operational efficiency.
“There's been a concerted effort by Admissions to increase retention by customizing the student experience,” said Mr. Vickers, “and getting a smoother flow from registration to class selection."
With the successful deployment of QLess, the VSU Financial Aid office has reported a substantial reduction in traffic congestion. Wait times have been reduced to 10 minutes or less during peak periods, and the office is now able to serve about 100 students every three hours. In addition, operational efficiency has improved as the staff can allocate a greater amount of their time to helping students and less to managing traffic in the office.
As students have gotten used to the QLess system, the number of people waiting in line in the Financial Aid lobby during peak hours has dropped to 10. This has played a pivotal role in keeping students in school and allowing them to complete their degrees.
Since VSU deployed QLess in 2015, “Student complaints have decreased by 30%,” said Mr. Vickers. “Dealing with our old software from the 1990s was a burden for students raised on mobile, but QLess has helped immensely with that.”
“Overall, we're very pleased with QLess, and our staff is extremely happy with the QLess interface. It doesn't get much simpler than this. The spec, quoting, and rollout process was all very easy and QLess’ usability is top notch,” said Mr. Vickers. “The learning curve was gentle even for users that have very little technical expertise, and the effect QLess has had on the physical lines at our office is quite dramatic. It has also reduced our dropout rate because students are no longer subjected to long lines that don’t respect their time.”