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American Student Assistance Gains Competitive Advantage in Disruptive Education Finance Arena With Data-Driven Insights

Modern finance software helps identify new revenue streams and reduces forecast variances to as low as 3%

A college education can be a big advantage in the workplace, but it can come with a high price tag. Many students take out hefty loans to pay for their higher education. According to the New York Federal Reserve, in 2016 some 44.2 million Americans carried loan debt that totaled approximately $1.3 trillion. That’s where American Student Assistance (ASA) enters the picture. Based in Boston, MA, the national nonprofit provides students with financial education and debt management services, including dispensing advice before college, encouraging college completion, and enabling successful student loan repayment. 

Challenges

  • Disruption across the industry due to new startups and changing federal student loan rules
  • Static planning processes that left little time for strategic analysis
  • Inflexible reporting processes and limited forecasting functionality

Results

  • Streamlined, active planning processes encourage collaboration across the organization
  • Easy integration with key business systems generates real-time, accurate data
  • Rolling forecasts provide new visibility into dynamic revenue streams 
  • Advanced reporting and scenario analysis helps senior leaders make data-driven decisions
About:
Since 1956, American Student Assistance, a national nonprofit, has dedicated itself to eliminating finance as a barrier to education and the dreams education enables. It provides students with financial education and debt management services, including dispensing advice before college, encouraging college completion, and enabling successful student loan repayment.
Location:
Boston, MA
Industry:
Nonprofit

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A college education is a big advantage in the workplace, but it can come with a high price tag. Many students take out hefty loans to pay for their higher education. According to the New York Federal Reserve, in 2016 some 44.2 million Americans carried loan debt that totaled approximately $1.3 trillion. 

That’s where American Student Assistance (ASA) enters the picture. Based in Boston, MA, ASA has supported students for more than 60 years as a loan guarantor. In recent years, however, the education financing arena has experienced disruption due to the federal government changing student loan policies and new companies offering novel solutions to the student debt problem. 

Outdated technology and static processes were were limiting the company

To stay ahead of the curve, ASA needed to diversify its revenue streams. Its updated business strategy would require flexible reporting processes and comprehensive forecasting. This presented certain challenges as ASA was struggling with rigid, outdated technology and static processes that didn’t reflect the complexities of the business.

ASA turned to Adaptive Insights for a cloud corporate performance management solution that automates collaborative planning, reporting, analytics, and data consolidation. Now, thanks to modern finance software and an active planning process, FP&A has transformed into a strategic decision support function at ASA. 

Forecast variances reduced substantially  

Today, one of the biggest payoffs of modernizing finance is that the ASA FP&A team can do real-time rolling forecasts. Current financial and operational data is smoothly integrated from business systems into Adaptive Planning, where managers can view actual results and variences to plans, and update projections. The results are impressive: Variances between actual spending and forecast amounts have shrunk to 3%-5%.  

“Our revenue streams are dynamic, so we need to model different scenarios on a more flexible basis,” said Mora Reyes, principal financial analyst at ASA. “With more precise forecasting and accurate reporting, senior leaders are able to make smarter decisions because they have real-time visibility into data.” 

Workforce planning has become more automated with better collaboration across accounting, HR, and business units using data that everybody trusts. During meetings, teams can access Adaptive Planning, discuss any changes to headcount start dates or end dates, and immediately roll up a current workforce plan. 

Real-time data integration and reporting yield strategic benefits

ASA has improved its data integrity by automatically integrating its enterprise resource planning and HR systems with Adaptive Planning. Workforce data automatically updates on a weekly basis, and GL data is updated daily. With quick access to daily, integrated data, reporting has greatly improved. This has empowered Reyes and her team to add more value through deeper analysis of performance with senior leadership. 

“Our entire FP&A culture has shifted away from being reactive to proactive,” said Reyes. “My CFO used to say, ‘These guys are supposed to be the subject matter experts,’ but without Adaptive Insights, that was just a dream. Today, because we built the right tool and changed our processes, we have a better role and we are at the table before the big discussion happens.” 

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