Recently, we faced a situation where we had to provide an automated Scholarship calculation tool for a leading university. None of the vanilla processes and functionalities met the unique challenges of the customer and we finally decided to develop our own Scholarship calculation engine in our labs to kill the haunting ghost which had been a mystery for many Higher Education customers in this region.

While Campus Solutions do provide scholarship calculation functionality through Financial Aid, there are unique, region specific scenarios where we normally lean towards extensive customization. As a renowned PeopleSoft Shop in association with the product for more than 2 decades, we are well aware of the factors involved in supporting a large custom solution and the challenges involved during upgrades.

So, what did we finally do?

We developed a BOLT-On solution by adopting best practices from other Universities and keeping in mind that solutions should be useful and reusable for other customers too in a plug and play mode.

In this blog, I’m going to discuss how we actually developed the Bolt-On solution for Scholarship Calculation and how you can use this article for any similar requirement in Campus Solutions.

Consider a scenario where you have to develop a Scholarship Calculator based on the following criteria:

  • Provide Scholarship based on Colleges, Academic year & Academic Program that students get enrolled in
  • Provision to change Scholarship amount real time by the university
  • Flexibility to exclude any student at a given point in time
  • Based on the nationality & tribes related criteria

Now, the very next thing you can do is to break up the above mentioned requirements into smaller pieces and then take a look at them again individually.

The Big Step

So first we break the lengthy pieces of the requirements mentioned in BIG REQUIREMENT DOCUMENTS into smaller one line statements in the form of questions and answers and then we look carefully at each statement at a time.

For example, the requirement is that certain programs under different colleges affiliated with the University are eligible for Scholarship; we should first focus on figuring out the colleges which are eligible and those that are not for scholarship.

Then we create a SET UP page mentioning the colleges eligible for Scholarship. You can do the reverse for colleges that are not eligible as well. A A similar case would apply if the requirement is as follows:

Students from certain foreign nations getting admitted should get a scholarship only for the Specific semester and should not get any financial assistance for other semesters. Also, the amount of scholarship varies based on the Science, Literature and Commerce programs. Any of the Students performing better in academics will get additional financial assistance based on their programs.

Look at the screen below. We have broken up the above particular statement into set up screens.

We have tried breaking up the requirements into small configurable pieces and every piece works as a condition (when put in a program) for eligibility or non-eligibility of the scholarship. While deciding on these pieces, look around into your Campus Solution system and check if any of the delivered pieces or set-ups can work for you or not. In future, if there is a requirement change, accordingly you can manage your screens and introduce new ones or discard some of the existing ones. This way, your program is always configurable in real sense like any other standard delivered program or process.

Once we are done with the design, let’s see (in the diagram below) how it will actually work once developed into a program.

What’s Next?

Once you have your requirements clearly, you need to decide upon the approach, the way your program should work on the database (specifically Student details) and produce results based on the conditions (criteria broken up into smaller pieces).

Now you need to decide upon the tool for writing the calculation engine. The choice is yours, whether you want to write an SQR program or create an Application engine or use any other tool.(Do compare available tools in terms of their advantages before the giant leap)

We actually wrote one application engine program which goes through all the conditions step by step and provides the desired result.

Customer Benefits & ROI

Coming to an important point from Customer’s perspective; how is your customer benefitted from all the hard work you put into this?

Through this kind of solution, your customer, first and foremost, sees all the key business processes getting implemented without any hassle and doesn’t have to depend only on the out of the box solution provided by PeopleSoft (or any other ERP) to meet their unique needs. You don’t have to sound skeptical in front of the customer.

Also, keeping in mind that scholarship criteria does change often based on the geography, economic conditions and with time, such kind of solutions provide better returns, on the investment done while implementing Campus Solutions and creating Bolt-On, in the longer run.

Leveraging your Bolt-On with other Functionalists

Once the system is ready and in place, you can actually scale up by providing more options or let’s say NICE to HAVE Wish list from the Client.

For example, you can add a feature of “Student Loan Processing” to this by again adding new setup pages and adding few more sections to the program.

You can also produce various reports based on several criteria with the help of this kind of customized solution.

Road Ahead

Now, if you can scale this solution to suit requirements for customers from different regions and create a reusable component, this might be very helpful on your next visit to a University looking forward to such solutions. Also, this kind of solution can be handy with some extra customizations for Campus Retail industry.

Question for you? What if your client doesn’t permit a Bolt-On solution and instead asks you to make use of existing HRMS system for scholarships? Think.

We will discuss this in our next blog post.

You can also produce various reports based on several criteria with the help of this kind of customized solution.

Posted by Adhikansh Maurya
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November 28th, 2013

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