A year ago, when Washington State University was redoing its financial aid website to make it "faster and friendlier," they came up with an idea, says Brian Dixon, WSU assistant vice president of student financial services.
"We said, 'what we should do is translate the whole page into Spanish,'" Dixon says.
Today, the university announced that it had launched a student financial services website that is entirely translated into Spanish. Dixon says WSU might be the first in the country to do so. He adds that it's an important step in helping bilingual students and their families navigate the financial aid system.
"Parents are part of financial decisions, and students were telling us about stories where they were translating stuff to parents, and it was confusing information to them," Dixon says.
The Spanish website, he says, makes it that much easier to make important financial decisions for a growing student demographic. According to WSU, in seven years the number of Hispanic undergraduate students as more than doubled at the university — from 1,405 Hispanics in 2009 to 3,512 in fall 2016. Hispanics make up roughly 14.1 percent of WSU's undergraduate students.
Dixon looked at colleges across the country to check if any others had a Spanish-translated student financial services page, and none had, he says. There are other universities that have websites that are partially-translated or may contain links to Google Translate. But often, the website contained jargon that didn't translate well into Spanish.
Dixon reached out to WSU's Spanish department to help with translation.
Carmen Kroschel, a graduate student in WSU's Spanish department, helped translate the website along with two other undergraduate students. Kroschel says finding more ways to get families involved in the financial process in college is imperative.
"I think financial aid, regardless of language, can be a very overwhelming process," she says. "I think it's wonderful that we can create a website that can make things a lot easier to digest."
Dixon says it's possible that other parts of WSU's website will be translated into Spanish, though he added that there's a "big reason" universities don't translate the entire site, due to the time it takes. But Kroschel is hopeful that other departments and other colleges will follow their lead.
"I'm so pleased that WSU is proceeding down this route, and I hope that other campuses follow suit," Kroschel says. "It's so needed, in this political climate, to show we are here for students."