This is Part Two of an ongoing series of blog posts. If you haven’t already, take a few minutes to read Part One if you haven’t already 😊.
As I was considering what subject I should dive into for this blog post, my mind kept going back to Banner setup for a new aid year. I kept saying to myself, “It is so early to be thinking about new year setup given the time of year.” I then started reflecting on why I was thinking about this at such an odd time. I can’t help but think it’s because of all the conversations in Financial Aid offices nationwide regarding the many upcoming changes.
FAFSA Simplification, Department of Education reporting changes, and system updates seem to be predominantly on the forefront of everyone’s mind, and understandably so. The most concerning part of all of this to me is, we don’t necessarily know what all these things are going to look like. When change and uncertainty is imminent, it’s very easy to forget about the things we already know or put them on the backburner. Unfortunately, this strategy can leave us scrambling to resolve issues if we aren’t careful. These issues that could arise are issues that we may not have time for given all the other work that is approaching in the coming months.
With that said, I wanted to write a two-part post to detail some things that I have seen over the years that are important to keep in mind when preparing for and setting up a new aid year. Part One will cover New Year Roll and Population Selections/SQL Rules, and Part 2 will cover Batch Posting/Jobs and Process Automation.
I hope that this will serve as a useful resource for you now or in the future. Regardless of when you decide to implement a new year or make changes, feel free to look back on this series of posts to help guide you along the way.
Batch Posting and Jobs
Batch posting and baseline/custom jobs updates are inevitable when starting a new aid year. Knowing which batch posting categories you will be using at your institution as well as any banner jobs that are aid year specific are important to make note of. Here are a few things to look out for when it comes time to address these items.
- New Population Selections
You may have changes to consider when making population selections which could require you to make two different selections for two different aid years. You may also have some hard-coded aid years or terms in your Selection IDs to update (as mentioned above). When this is the case, make sure you have updated your Selection ID in RORPOST as well. Running RORBPST on a batch posting record with a wrong Selection ID is the impetus for a very sinking feeling in your stomach (so I hear 😉).
There are other values that RORPOST can use in addition to Selection IDs that may require updating (tracking requirements, fund codes, algorithmic rules, etc.) A quick look to make sure everything is correct will save you a lot of headaches down the road.
- New Jobs and Parameters
Many times, when a new banner job is released for an aid year (especially if it’s one you run all the time), it’s easy to overlook the job parameters. Making sure that the order of parameters has not changed or that a new parameter has been added is a good practice to get into.
I also recommend checking any saved parameter sets for new jobs to make sure everything looks good for the upcoming aid year. Understanding how all the parameters in a job work and being aware of new ones is a great way to make sure you are prepared for running any newly delivered Banner jobs.
- Check Your Output!
Whether you utilize an enterprise scheduling software for job automation (we will talk about that more shortly) or run your Banner jobs manually, it’s very easy to assume they ran successfully and move on to the next one. Especially when you are running a new job for an aid year, or that job has been updated in a new release, I can’t express how important it is to check the output of the job.
Whether you check for output in GJIREVO, your school’s job sub directory, or some sort of automated email from your system, ensure that the job is running successfully with no errors in the output. Overlooking this can lead to someone thinking a job is being run when indeed it isn’t, which often results in less than desirable effects down the road. As we know, many Financial Aid processes in Banner depend on their predecessors running successfully in order to get the intended result.
- Cobol to Java
I wanted to take some time to point out this change in the Ellucian system in relation to jobs being run in Banner Financial Aid. Once you have completed the necessary steps, be sure to run all the affected jobs using the newly released Java processes. Check your output, run them in different scenarios (ROAIMMP, job submission, using population selections, etc.). With the jobs completely changing, it’s important to know that they are working to suit your institution’s needs.
Testing these changes and even the setup will likely require collaboration with your IT department. Make sure you plan enough time in advance to make sure everything is set up and working ahead of starting to use the newly released jobs.
I would be remiss if I didn’t touch briefly on system automations. While this gets a little more technical, I think it is important to keep a few things in mind. I want to focus my attention on two different aspects of automation, TDClient and Enterprise Scheduling tools (AppWorx, ISE, etc.). For schools who utilize these types of automation, it’s no secret the amount of time that is saved by using these tools.
It is important to remember that with the ease and convenience of these tools comes the responsibility to monitor them closely. It is very easy to go into autopilot when utilizing these processes when it comes to checking for successful completion and any errors that may occur. This is especially easy to do when these processes run on a schedule, and there are many other tasks in a given day requiring your attention.
When getting ready for a new aid year (or even during the year in some of these instances), I recommend keeping in mind the following:
- New/Updated Message Classes
This affects both TDClient and your enterprise scheduler if you utilize them. Each year, be sure to review the new message classes that may be delivered for a new aid year. You may need to work with your IT Department to update the TDClient scripts that are being utilized to bring in message class files.
The only other way to know that you may be missing files is if you open EdConnect one day and see many of the same message class files that have not been imported to Banner. It’s much better to read the documentation ahead of time to know what changes might be coming.
There is likely more to come on this topic, specifically for the 2024-2025 aid years. We will be keeping a close eye on any developments and will be able to provide recommendations accordingly.
- Reporting/Schema Changes
While these changes often come at the start of an aid year, we have seen over the last few years a schema change mid-year that requires a change to a Banner job being utilized to import a message class file to Banner. It is important to know which schemas are using which Banner jobs and when they should be utilized.
- Don’t Schedule Right Away
When it comes to using Enterprise Scheduling tools, I always recommend building out any processes in a test instance before moving to Production. Assuming this has been done, I still recommend to my clients not to schedule their processes to run automatically right away. Even if you have no issues in testing, you should remember you are still working in a different Banner environment with different variables than you tested in.
Typically, when I move processes into Production (especially those involving TDClient or high visibility Banner jobs), I like to run those processes manually the first several times. This ensures that I will review the output and it also gives me the ability to identify (and sometimes intercept) any issues right away. The “set it and forget it” aspect of job automation is great, but it’s much better to catch issues early than it is to let them go on for extended periods.
There is a lot covered in these posts. There is always so much to keep in mind, and with the upcoming changes, being on top of our Financial Aid systems is a very high priority. When it comes to any of the items covered, our consultants at Strata Information Group are happy to assist your institution’s needs. If you have any questions or would like to follow up with us regarding any of these topics, please feel free to contact us. We would be happy to assist you with your next steps!
Written by Daniel McClanahan, Senior Consultant
Daniel specializes in Ellucian Banner functional and technical processes related to Financial Aid, Admissions, Accounts Receivable, and Registration where they interact for end-user support. He provides functional assistance to solve errors, problems or questions with programs, and trains functional and technical staff to use programs across departments. Functional expertise includes algorithmic packaging, direct loans, disbursement, financial aid common functions, needs analysis, period-based algorithmic budgeting, post-implementation assessment, SAP, transfer monitoring, and self-service. Technical expertise includes SQL, PL/SQL, Argos, other SQL based reporting tools, and AppWorx.