Washington Taps Otter Chatbot to Help High School Students Find Financial Aid

Financial Aid

Despite Washington has a most affordable higher education environment, the financial aid process locks too many students out

Despite known for one of the most highly skilled economies in the country, Washington consistently ranks in the bottom ten states for financial aid completion among high school seniors. Last year, the best U.S. state to live witnessed 49th rank in the nation with just 43% of seniors completing financial aid forms. In 2017, more than $50 million in federal aid was left unused. Nationwide students are most likely to benefit from higher education – low-income and first-generation – is least likely to apply for financial aid. Washington State has one of the most affordable higher education environments across the country, but the financial aid process locks too many students out. A study suggests that AI-enabled nudging and guidance can help overcome this barrier.

According to a study in Texas, students who received text message reminders from a trusted source were 17 percent more likely to complete a financial aid application. Thanks to “Otter” – an advanced AI chatbot developed by AdmitHub and launched by the Washington Student Achievement Council (WSAC) – that will enable thousands of high school students in Washington to have a new ally in the financial aid application process. Otter utilizes conversational AI, familiar to students from popular consumer websites, to provide proactive, personalized guidance to students as they navigate the complexity of college financial aid and enrollment.

Michael Meotti, Executive Director of WSAC, said, “Otter’s sophisticated technology provides students with individualized support in a familiar format and voice. We want to connect students with resources that help them thrive in higher education.”

Although the new Washington College Grant helps low-income students cover full tuition at public rates, it can only be accessed if students apply for financial aid. Beginning in fall 2019, Washington has been dedicated to boost financial aid applications through a pilot program that enables high school students to ask Otter questions directly via text message, and receive reminders or “nudges” about key deadlines.

The process of applying for aid and navigating the enrollment process can be incredibly daunting. AI is enabling colleges and universities to provide support to more students than ever before – in a way that’s secure, personalized, and responsive to their unique needs and challenges. By providing students with real-time answers to common problems, it frees up time for advisors to support those who need it most,” said Drew Magliozzi, Co-Founder and CEO of AdmitHub