The Financial Aid office contracted the development of the new site to Coalmarch Productions, a Raleigh-based web development company, which began production of the site last Spring. The site replaces a predecessor that was almost five years old and is intended to make complicated financial aid information more approachable, said Alison Rabil, assistant vice provost and director of financial aid.
“The new website was needed so that we could communicate a very complicated message in a way that students and families could understand it," Rabil said. "And there are so many misconceptions about financial aid and how it works that it’s important to have our message out there where people can find it and use it.”
Miranda McCall, associate director of financial aid, led the website’s redesign. She emphasized that designing the site was a challenge in large part because of the diversity of the audience it serves. It holds information for current students, undergraduate applicants and applicants’ parents, all of whom interact very differently with the site.
“If we can make it so that this is easy for [parents] and for current students and undergraduate applicants, for us that’s a success.” McCall said.
The site is also a resource for Duke administrators like Dean of Students Sue Wasiolek, who said that, as an administrator, she found the site easier to navigate.
“Duke's new financial aid website is a wonderful enhancement to the financial aid process.” said Wasiolek, who is also the assistant vice president for student affairs.
McCall added that the site also includes a new “Tips and Resources” page which provides quick financial advice for students on a budget. The advice is supported by student volunteers on the Financial Aid Advisory Council, which also helped generate feedback during the site’s design.
The release follows the launch of the new admissions website last year. McCall explained that the Financial Aid site, which is a natural second stop for applicants after the admissions site, tried to preserve that look and feel.
“This is our application cycle. Right now, everybody who wants to go to college has just turned in their admissions applications," McCall said. "So they are now delving into ‘how are we going to pay for it?’.”
The changes make up only two of many updates to Duke’s online presence this year. In addition to the new Financial Aid and Admissions sites, a new duke.edu site is scheduled to launch by next week, and the Library debuted its new site Jan. 13.
Emily Daly, head of User Experience for the Library, said that their website was developed completely in-house, unlike the Financial Aid site. And after at least two failed attempts at a revamp last fall, the new site has been getting a lot of positive feedback, Daly said.
Financial Aid Counselor Hayley Broadhead said that she is enthusiastic about their updated site.
“I am excited about our new website. Our goal is to help make information, regarding how financial aid works at Duke, more accessible to both students and parents," Broadhead said. "I already see parents and students referring to the information that they have read.”