Howard Entin – “Conduct business on a 24/7 basis.”
Howard Entin – “Students can drill right to the information.”
Howard Entin – “We take them there through the site.”
Howard Entin – “We should be functioning in a tomorrow environment.”
The BMCC Financial Aid Office is now open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and 365 days a year — on the Internet, that is. Students can now access everything the office has to offer via its Web site, thanks to the efforts of Director Howard Entin, Associate Director Ralph Buxton and their staff.
“We’ve tried to build a Web site for students that allows them to conduct business with us on a 24/7 basis — at times and in places that is convenient to them,” Entin said. Citing how students may work non-traditional hours or may be taking online courses in another time zone, Entin wants BMCC students to think of the Web as a convenience. “Students should be able to get information and resolve problems on their time,” he said.
To do this, the duo, Entin and Buxton, completely rethought the concept of the old site, which was set up more like a book. Students used to be forced to read through page-by-page, step-by-step, and were barred from jumping to one particular topic from another. And moreover, there was nothing available to download — the process was all paper driven. Realizing the need for a student to quickly find exactly what they wanted, Entin and Buxton discarded the out the old Financial Aid Web.
“Now you can jump in or jump out at anytime,” Buxton said. “It’s moved to something that points you from front to back, but lets you do whatever you’d like to do. We move them from general to specific but wherever you are on the site, you have the opportunity to learn about whatever it is you need.”
Buxton and Entin also both realized that back-and-forth communication was important, too. So far, so good: Students continually pose questions pointing out things he and Buxton have missed, and the two will go back in and add the information.
“The Web site is designed intentionally not to be static. We want students to look forward to coming back to the Web site to find ever increasing information,” Entin says.
All of this means, for the most part, that students no longer have to wait on a long line at the Financial Aid Office if they don’t want to.
“Any form that a student might use in the course of business with us is on the Web site. A student can avoid coming to the office and download forms, complete them, and then they don’t even have to come in person; they can e-mail or fax them to us,” Entin said. “They can get all the information that applies to them, whether it’s how to get a work study job, how to apply for a student loan, how to apply for financial aid, finding out the status of their application, or how much money they’ve earned through their work study.”
The bottom line, according to Entin, is simple: “What we do here should pattern the lives we lead outside of the college. If in our daily lives, we’re conducting our business electronically, the college should be a leader in that. If we’re training tomorrow’s leaders, we should be functioning in tomorrow’s environment.”