Hello TASFAA members,
I hope all of you are off to a great summer start! Seems like we just keep going in financial aid these days, one semester to the next. It is my pleasure to share with you some brief testimonials from recent attendees to TASFAA’s New Aid Officer Workshop held in Grapevine, Texas at The Great Wolfe Lodge.
I want to express my sincere appreciation to the Director’s around the state who have invested in this year’s participants and past year’s participants by allocating budget dollars to send their team members to New Aid Officers!
It seems like just a few years ago I attended New Aid Officer Workshop (NAOW). When I attended, it was “Camp We be New”. We were new and had a lot to learn. I did indeed learn a great deal and I met people who I am still in contact with today. The training I received during NAOW, was very beneficial to me as I was beginning my career in student aid.
As financial aid directors, we must invest in our team members and foster an environment where our team members will embrace this rewarding career. Financial Aid is a career where you commit to serving students and families as they seek educational goals in order to improve their overall well-being.
Thank you again financial aid directors for investing in your team members and to the participants who shared their experience as an attendee at the 2019 New Aid Officers Workshop for this blog post.
This May I attended the TASFAA New Aid Officer Workshop. The two and a half day conference was packed with information and resources. The presenters were enthusiastic and entertaining. I found it interesting to learn of similarities and differences between the various institutions represented. Coming from our team based organizational structure, there were things with which I was well acquainted and things I had only encountered in passing. The presentations made no assumption of prior experience and therefore filled in gaps in knowledge and answered questions I had never had reason to ask. I appreciate the opportunity to attend and only wish that I could have had the experience earlier.
You guys did a great job. I really appreciated the lighthearted way you and your team presented some otherwise fairly dry information.
Attending the TAASFA New Aid Officer Workshop was a very helpful conference that allows new financial aid officers to connect all the pieces of the FA process. Attending this conference we were able to learn about specialty fields such as Return to Title IV, Satisfactory Academic Progress, and Verification. More importantly, I gained a clear understanding of how I, a Financial Aid Administrator of the Processing team, benefit the overall success of our students and office.
I look forward to signing up to volunteer with TASSFA and the training committee in the future!
NAVIGATING THE LABYRINTH OF FINANCIAL AID AS A NEW AID OFFICER
In my first few weeks as a financial aid advisor, my colleague asked me if I felt like I was drinking from a fire hose. His question accurately indicated the extent of information and detail that a new aid officer must learn in order to properly advise on federal, state, and institutional aid. TASFAA’s New Aid Officer’s Workshop (NAOW) provides those who are new to the field of financial aid with an opportunity to understand the legal and conceptual framework of this specialty within higher education. It also presents a venue that allows one the occasion to meet new officers from other Texas institutions.
The workshop consists of a series of presentations that cover the many aspects of financial aid such as verification, satisfactory academic progress, and assessing financial need. The coordinators invite those present to participate in exercises that build social perceptiveness. Attendees are also able to interact with other TASFAA members at meals and breaks. Further, the workshop encourages the free exchange of ideas and procedures among the participants. This atmosphere exemplifies that new officers engage with a community that prioritizes compliance and customer service while at the workshop.
NAOW hosts presenters from various higher education institutions in Texas. The presenters provide those who attend with the historical, legislative, and conceptual background when explaining their particular category. For example, Kevin Campbell, Training Officer with the U.S. Department of Education, shared the Pell Grant’s namesake and legislative journey before explaining the essential intricacies of year-round Pell. Such context may seem dispensable; however, the provided history allows for an understanding of the gravity and import of this federal program.
When new aid officers have the opportunity to engage with the rationales and details of the many forms and processes of financial aid, they are better equipped to advise on such programs and rules. During the workshop, Lindsay Partridge, Financial Aid Officer at UT Southwestern Medical Center, spoke on federal direct loans. She provided strategies for discussing unsubsidized loans with students, which included encouraging students to pay the loan’s interest while the student is still pursuing his or her degree. By gleaning these strategies from financial aid professionals throughout Texas, the new aid officer is better equipped as a colleague and advisor.
Another benefit of attending the workshop is that the presenters provide and cite the many resources available to an aid officer, such as NASFAA and FSA published guidance. This information communicates to the new officer that he or she is connected to and supported by the available resources. As an added benefit, the presenters often share their contact information if one is in need of further clarification. Most memorably, James Hubener, District Director at Dallas County Community College, offered his email address following his presentation on satisfactory academic progress. Such professional generosity demonstrates the networking opportunities available within the TASFAA community.
Those who attend NAOW not only have the ability to interact with other aid officers from other institutions, but they are also able to engage with TASFAA’s board members. In sum, the workshop offers a space where those new to financial aid may grow their current understanding of the subject while also networking in a professional setting.
As many of you know (or are finding out like myself), the world of financial aid is abundant in its set of rules and seems to almost have its own language. There are so moving parts to learn that everyone I’ve spoken with has told me it’s virtually impossible to learn it all. Every situation can be a little different not only for each student, but for each school as well. For this reason (amongst many others), I feel like a savvy suggestion would be to muster up a few training representatives from the surrounding schools to allow them the opportunity to educate the newer members of the financial aid scene. However, I must confess that the plan I speak of is not one of my own (I’m guessing you already knew that, right). Regardless of who came up with this bright idea, it exists because the selfless contributions made allow for a New Aid Officer workshop directed by the Texas Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (TASFAA).
This professional association for the state of Texas assembles numerous top-notch training instructors that share their experiences with new officers like myself. Most ranging from one week of experience to a year or so (with a few veteran officers attending for a refresher), the group of about 80 attendees had several different perspectives on how to handle the situations their schools commonly face. The environment that was created allowed for much discussion and involvement between the instructors and us new officers. With only 3 months of financial aid knowledge under my belt, this kind of training was crucial for my growth in order to help our students the best I possibly can. Not only was I able to further build on my foundation with a variety of topics (and I haveve a ton of notes in case I forget), but I was able to build my confidence amongst peers as we learned from each other together.
Over the course of the workshop, we also participated in a few group exercises as well. These not only broadened my horizon from a financial aid standpoint, but from a personal development point of view as well. Many of us enjoyed the activities and were truly able to learn from other’s points of view. Us new aid officers not only had the opportunity to learn and network with other, but we were also able to be lucky enough to do the same with the training officers and the Board of Directors. We even did a team building exercise after dinner (it was awesome)! Like I previously mentioned, the environment for learning was perfect and encouragement was plentiful because of the wonderful representatives of TASFAA and the bright new aid officers who participated. Thank you all so much for the opportunity to learn and serve our students with you!
For anyone who will be attending this workshop in the future, here’s a few things I tried to focus on for the bigger picture. Take plenty of notes, as they may help your students in the future. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, as the answer may help your students in the future. Be respectful and network with your peers, as you may help each other in the future. But most of all, show up and have fun. I promise you will learn something valuable, for everyone in the present.