2019-2020 TASFAA Board Election Results

Dear TASFAA Members,

The 2019-2020 balloting for the TASFAA Board of Directors has closed. The votes have been tabulated, and the below individuals have been elected to serve as the president-elect and new board members of TASFAA. I want to thank, on behalf of the board, every TASFAA member who took the time to submit a nomination and especially those individuals who agreed to stand for election and represent our members on the TASFAA Board of Directors. Thank you all very much.

President Elect

  • Taryn Anderson – University of Dallas

Board Members (At-Large)

  • Cynthia Butler – Dallas County Community College District
  • Dede Gonzales – Texas State University
  • Jael Perez – University of Texas – Rio Grande Valley
  • Christina Pikla – Trinity University

 

New Aid Officers Workshop Testimonials

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.

Sincerely,
Delisa Falks
TASFAA President
2018-2019

 

Jared Williams

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.

 

Stephen Lewis

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!

 

Laurel Butts

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.

 

Robert Holt

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.

Samreen Khurram Selected for NASFAA’s Diversity Leadership Program

Hi TASFAA!

Congratulations to Samreen Khurram from Lone Star College; who is a member of NASFAA’s Diversity Leadership Program. This program provides selectees from a wide range of diverse backgrounds with a robust portfolio of benefits, mentorship, and guidance on how to develop as a financial aid association leader at the state, regional, and national level.

TASFAA is very excited for Samreen to have been selected for this program.

Delisa Falks
TASFAA President
2018-2019

Samreen Khurram
Director, Financial Aid
Lone Star College-Tomball
Tomball, TX

When Samreen entered into the field of financial aid 18 years ago, she did not know she would be kickstarting a career in helping students—much like herself—succeed in higher education. She accepted a student-worker position at Houston Community College after hearing about the job from her financial aid advisor, and discovered that she really “enjoyed helping students achieve their educational goals by providing them with financial aid options and advice, which would help alleviate financial stress from them.” In her current position serving as the financial aid director at Lone-Star College-Tomball, Samreen has offered numerous financial literacy sessions for students, and partnered with other departments and community leaders to create learning experiences for students in their desired field of study. Samreen has also worked with several community donors to design scholarships geared toward minority students.

“Being myself a part of a minority group, I am fully committed to enhancing skills that can help underrepresented groups of the community overcome challenges and roadblocks they face today in their educational environment,” Samreen said. “Through this leadership program I want to be able to guide and mentor people of not only different races and genders, but also people from different generations, sexual orientations, religious affiliations, and people with disabilities. I believe this leadership program will also empower me to bring my ideas and experiences to the larger conversation on education policies, which are critical to the future success of our students.”

Why is diversity important to the profession of financial aid and higher education?

It is our goal in financial aid to provide quality service without any bias to students who come from a variety of backgrounds. In order to better assist a diverse student population, we need to understand their needs and backgrounds, which can be achieved by diversifying the financial aid profession. Diversity not only brings new ideas to the table, but also encourages and sets examples for students that anyone can be successful.

How have you seen diversity in higher education change since you began your career? What gaps/issues remain?

Over my 18-year career in financial aid I have seen improvement in the inclusion and acceptance of people based on their gender, race, cultural background, sexual orientation, and religion. But a lot of work still needs to be done—especially at the college and university leadership level. We need leaders who can relate to the students and staff not through training, but through personal experiences.

What are some of your career and personal life goals?

I want to start a non-profit organization that helps and guides underserved and underrepresented populations through their educational paths. I feel that a lot of students who are first-generation college students need early guidance from their middle school to help them achieve their educational goals. This will include educating the parents and students on the ups and downs of the education system and giving them advice on how to navigate the admissions and financial aid processes.

If you go back to any period in time, when would that be and why?

I want to go back to the 1990s with my son. I miss all those cartoons and the childhood experiences. I would love for my son to spend his toddler years in a minimum-technology environment.

 What’s your favorite way to relax?

I relax by coloring or playing video games.

 Any hidden talents?

I can read a student aid report

Deadline Approaching – Submit Your TASFAA Board Nominations

The deadline to submit your nominations for officers of the TASFAA Board is fast approaching. The nomination process will close at 5 pm on April 15. The nomination form is located on the TASFAA website at the below link.

Nomination Form

Officer Positions

  • President-Elect – Serves President-Elect in 2019-2020, President in 2020-2021 and Past President in 2021-2022. Nominees must have previously served on the Board of Directors or have board and/or committee experience.
  • Board Members (four positions) – Serve a two-year term for the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 years. This position requires collaborative leadership skills and attendance at all meetings.

Please take time to nominate a colleague who would serve as an effective and collaborative leader for our great organization.

Sincerely,

Christopher D. Murr, Ph.D.
Nominations and Elections Committee Chair
TASFAA Past President 2018

 

TASFAA Updates from Delisa

Hi TASFAA Colleagues!

It has been a while since I have posted to the TASFAA listserv or to the Blog, rest assured I have not forgotten about any of you. As all of you know time gets away from you.

I wanted to take this opportunity to provide you with a few updates. I knew when I stepped into the role of TASFAA President the year would be fasted paced. I was SO right! There are so many things you want to accomplish; as well as staying connected with TASFAA members. This has been a challenge; a good one though!

As President of TASFAA, I have been reaching out to Legislative members and/or their staffers in Texas and in Washington D.C. The goal is to introduce TASFAA, and let them know that TASFAA can provide expert guidance in the area of financial aid programs and policies. After sending letters of introduction, I received a couple of emails from staffers for general financial aid information to help them better advise representatives. I was more than happy to speak to applying for financial aid, as well as eligibility and programs.

The TASFAA Legislative Committee prepared a letter of support for Senator Seliger’s HB 499, which clarifies that Federal and State loans are the only required loans to meet requirements of SB 887. There has been much confusion regarding whether Alternative loans were to be included in the yearly disclosures to students from Institutions of higher education.

Last week, Dr. Chris Murr-Past President of TASFAA, Jimmy Parker-TASFAA Legislative Committee member and I traveled to the State Capital in Austin, to further support SB 499. Dr. Murr provided testimony on behalf of the Texas State System. Jimmy Parker and I served as expert witnesses if needed. The three of us had the opportunity to meet Senator Seliger and to thank him for this bill on behalf of all institutions of higher education in Texas.

The TASFAA Legislative Committee and I continue to monitor legislation for state financial aid programs. As a reminder on TASFAA’s webpage; TASFAA position papers have been posted for the current 86th Legislature session under Member Center. In reviewing bills this session, a few have promise in moving forward, there are several bills related to allowing students the ability to renew their professional or occupational license if they have defaulted on their student loans. This would allow these students to continue to work; thus having the ability to rehabilitate or repay their defaulted student loans. It is very likely SB 34 will move forward, this would change the Texas Grant maximum hours for students from the current 150 to 135 hours. We will keep watching and update all of you as we monitor bills.

TASFAA Regional Trainings are about to wind down for the spring of 2019; today’s training is in Austin, next stop Dallas/Ft. Worth.

Friday, of this past week I welcomed approximately 90 TASFAA members to the Houston regional training site; held at the University of Houston, Sugarland campus. Many thanks to University of Houston for their hospitality. The Sugarland campus is beautiful! The regional training co-chairs (Christy Miller and Heather Fountain) have done a fantastic job and were very excited to have assistance with training this year. The presenters who assisted are Ed Kerskley and Chandra Gonzalez. TASFAA is excited to provide NASFAA Credentialing to their members.

The TASFAA Early Awareness Committee has been working to ensure TASFAA has a presence around Texas to provide Financial Aid knowledge to high school counselors. All committee members are working to schedule presentations! Crystal Smith a member of the Early Awareness Committee presented last week to a group of 50 Ft. Worth ISD advisors who assist middle school and high school students with the college process. The presentation was held on the TCU campus.

Fall conference planning is moving forward, more information to come soon!

Lastly, I am excited to announce a new opportunity coming to the fall 2019 conference in Ft. Worth, Texas. One of the initiatives I discussed as I moved into the role of TASFAA President was to provide training to Aspiring Directors. I am very excited that the fall 2019 conference will have an Aspiring Director track on the agenda. Distinguished TASFAA members that are currently Directors of Financial Aid will be presenting on various topics on roles and responsibilities that Directors fulfill; as well as their journey into a Director’s position.

I have included a few pictures of this past week’s TASFAA’s happenings!

Best Regards,

Delisa Falks

2018-2019 TASFAA President