CARES Act Higher Education Funding: Is it the right time to invest in a document management system?
The COVID-19 pandemic has hit the world economy like nothing else has since, perhaps, The Great Depression. While the economy starts to make its way to a return to something like normalcy, there’s no doubt the education industry has been changed forever. The sudden shift from classrooms to 100% remote online learning has been a challenging pivot to make. Many educational institutions that hadn’t made a full digital transformation before, found it hard playing catch up. Even the ones that invested in technology for in-class learning, had to make additional changes. These new digital requirements have become the norm going forward.
Educating students remotely over the internet necessitates adoption of technologies that simulate classroom lectures to some degree. Live streaming of video lectures, interactive collaboration tools for students to work together, softwares for managing teaching resources and aids, standardized assessment of assignments and examinations and other such interventions can be clubbed under a learning management system. However, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Student CRM, Digital Identity, and administrative management tools like electronic document management too need to be deployed.
The 2020 Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act came as a necessary relief for both K-12 and institutions of higher education. A second round of funding has been legislated for 2021.
CARES ACT FOR HIGHER EDUCATION
CARES Act outlines four funding pools applying to higher education institutions of different kinds. Each pool is governed by a set of distribution guidelines. The list below should help you figure out where your institution fits in the scheme.
- Enrollment Formula Funds
Institutions receiving Title IV funding are eligible
- Governer’s Education Relief Fund
Available to all state governments to deploy.
- Additional Minority Serving Institutions Funding
Institutions currently receiving Title III, V, or VII funding are eligible.
- Supplementary Emergency Funding
Public and non-profit private institutions who have significant unmet need after receiving funds from other pools are eligible.
Whichever funding route you apply for, 50% of the funding amount must go towards student aid. The remaining 50% is available for the institution to use, within certain criteria. However the allowable uses include paying for hardware and software technologies that aid transition to distant learning. The second round of funding this year allows for greater flexibility in spending than it did in 2020.
THE UTILITY OF A DOCUMENT MANAGEMENT SYSTEM IN DISTANCE LEARNING.
There are a variety of IT solutions which are now necessary to conduct a digital classroom session. These include live video lectures, online teaching aids, shared learning resources, and other such technologies directly enhancing an interactive learning exchange. However, an educational institution isn’t limited to merely its teaching function. Administrative functions like admissions, financial aid, student services, human resources, maintenance and archival of student records, accounts and many more, work together behind the scenes to enable the teacher-student interaction as the primary function.
Administrative workflows that were manageable physically in-campus, will now be forced to optimize with administrators working remotely. There is no way but to digitize all documents from beginning to end of every workflow. A document management system at the foundational layer of these technologies would simply enhance its effectiveness by bridging all the functions of the institution under a single system.
A technology that backends all the processes of an institution, like a document management system, will enable the deployment of efficiency at scale. And this is certain to bring down costs. Leaving more money available for use towards even better interactive tools for distance learning, and frequent upgrades.
DIGITALLY TRANSFORM TODAY
No doubt, the CARES Act funding must be used for student welfare on priority. The needs are real, and the aid is necessary. The next most urgent investment would seem to be in interactive technologies to enable remote learning. Once these are set up, an institution has the opportunity to build for a post-COVID future while mitigating the damages done by the pandemic in the present. The digital transformation you make today is not a stop gap measure to tide over the situation. Whenever the students return to campuses, your digital transformation doesn’t lose its worth. It is here to stay.
To that end a document management system is a wise investment.