UT-Austin to implement new financial aid software for 2023-24 academic year

Leila Saidane, Senior News Reporter

UT will begin implementing new financial aid software as the primary interface for the Office of Scholarship and Financial Aid Services in October for the 2023-24 academic year. 

Oracle Vocado Student Financial Planning features a portal that gives students a custom view of federal and non-federal awards and aid eligibility, e-signature functionality for forms and an automated calculator for award planning over multiple years, according to the UT Shared Information Services website. The system automates eligibility determination, packaging, awarding and disbursing aid, allowing the office to provide additional assistance to individuals. The implementation will be fully completed in December 2023, according to the website. 

The implementation allows the University to fulfill federally-mandated changes to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid simplification and eligibility.

Nicole Engelbert, Oracle’s vice president of higher education development, said the new software will transform students’ experiences with financial aid.

“At a large public institution like UT-Austin, you’re looking at upwards of 95% or more of financial aid functions for students to be automated,” Engelbert said. “We’re using a combination of artificial intelligence and really powerful algorithms to get your application from the feds, get that data, apply it to a set of roles, and then develop a package a financial aid package for you and enable you as a student to submit all the additional documentation or signatures to do that entirely in a digital format.”

The student accounting system, tuition payment and financial aid receival will remain the same, university spokesperson Kathleen Harrison said in an email. The new program will share award disbursement transactions with the current accounting system, she said.

“Modernizing UT-Austin student information systems is a key priority for the University to ensure we are effectively serving the needs of our students, faculty, and administrators,” Harrison said in an email. “Oracle’s student financial planning is part of this ongoing effort across the university to modernize technology and enhance a data focus community.”

Psychology and history junior Wren Thomson said he experienced difficulty finding aid he is eligible for when financing tuition.

“Scholarships are completely lost on me, just because the process of trying to find services that show where scholarships are available and who they’re available to is just ridiculous,” Thomson said. “(It’s) discouraging and definitely altered my plans for pursuing future scholarships just because the process is so tedious.” 

Thomson, president of Foundation of the Fosters, an organization that aims to assist current or former foster youth pursue college degrees, said researching scholarship opportunities for foster youth could be a months-long process.

“I can definitely see Oracle streamlining that process and just making it so much easier, that way (we don’t) have to devote a lot of focus and effort on figuring out what scholarships apply and we can focus on the bigger issues that come with working with foster youth,” Thomson said.