U of T to create centralized, online awards system

Students in class smiling

U of T has just announced the beginning of a multi-year project to help students easily search and apply for awards. The new system will automatically match students to relevant awards and notify them about funding decisions, amounts and payment dates.

Not only will this platform increase transparency and efficiency, but it will also help U of T maintain its standing as one of the world’s leading universities.

“Currently, students need to search for awards on their departmental, faculty and college websites, and also be aware of centrally funded awards,” says Donna Wall, director of financial aid and awards at Enrolment Services. “This platform will increase transparency and efficiency for applicants, recipients, donors and administrative staff.”

The project, a partnership between Enrolment Services and Enterprise Applications & Solutions Integration (EASI), will consolidate information and streamline manual processes for over 8,000 awards per year.

A key feature of the new system is its ability to automatically match students to awards according to their program, faculty, degree, GPA, and other award-specific criteria. The system will also store award letters for future reference and notify students about payment details.

A university-wide working group determined business needs, conducted interviews with other universities and attended multiple vendor demonstrations. After an extensive process, SmartSimple Software Inc. was announced as the chosen vendor on October 10, and implementation planning has begun.

“We’ve used a highly collaborative approach to select a vendor,” says Farah Ally, project manager with EASI. “U of T is a complex environment and currently the awards adjudication and administration processes for graduate and for undergraduate students have different requirements. It was important to find a solution that will best meet our combined needs and provide a solid foundation for the future.”

Staff will also be able to use an advanced search engine to match students with specific awards.

“Graduate students rely heavily on funding. We administer close to 4,000 awards per year,” says Laura Stathopoulos, director of Graduate Awards and Financial Aid with the School of Graduate Studies. “Because not all awards require an application, administrators will be able to automatically match eligible students to awards – we want to easily connect students with the right opportunities and help them reach their goals.”

Next steps for the project include launching the student facing awards search engine in spring of 2019. The team will then pilot the full system, including administrative functionality, with select faculties and colleges before rolling it out across the university.

“U of T is an affordable institution and we’re excited to advance the university’s mission,” says Wall. “This will transform awards administration for current and prospective students as well as staff.”