July President Highlights


Kevin JensenCan you believe it . . . August is almost here! For a lot of us, that means students will be returning to campus very, very soon. Of course, that also means we’re all incredibly busy. This time of year always feels crazy. For me, it seems like as soon as the NASFAA conference has concluded, the office goes into a dead sprint and, by the time we slow down a bit to take a breath . . . it’s September!

If no one has taken the time to tell you lately – on behalf of our students and our institutions – THANK YOU! The work you are doing right now is making a difference for thousands upon thousands of students who aspire to greater things. Your efforts, your smile, your help, and your dedication are appreciated – best of luck to all of you as you prepare for the upcoming school year!

Of course, while we are all working very hard in anticipation of the fall semester, the rest of the world continues on. I want to take a moment to recognize a few of your WASFAA colleagues . . . the Federal Issues Committee, the Training Committee, our Summer Institute Team, and our Management & Leadership Institute Team. These folks . . . in addition to keeping their institutions and students on track are also hard at work keeping an eye on all that is happening in Washington DC as well as preparing some of the very best financial aid and professional development training available for you, our members.

They aren’t alone either! We have more than twenty volunteer committees and task forces hard at work this year in support of these amazing training opportunities. An extra big THANK YOU to all of our WASFAA volunteers! If you would like to get involved, please let us know. You don’t have to have years of experience, you don’t have to be a director, you just have to love to help your colleagues – contact our WASFAA Volunteer Development Chair Diana Dowling at diana.dowling@yc.edu and we will get you plugged in somewhere you can make a difference!

One last thing . . . hopefully many of you are following WASFAA on Facebook and LinkedIn. If not, please join us! The coming months promise to be full of activity – as Congress works on legislation to reauthorize the Higher Education Act and the U.S. Department of Education prepares several Notices of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM’s). Summer and Fall are going to be busy and we want to help keep you up to date! We want to keep you informed . . . and we need you to help keep us tuned in to your thoughts and concerns too. I’ll be posting fairly regularly on both Facebook and LinkedIn – let’s get connected and help each other shape the future of financial aid!

Kevin Jensen 2014-15 President


Social Media in Enrollment Management

Using social media within enrollment management has been a hot topic for a while now. A co-worker of mine sent me an article entitled “The Next Big Thing in Enrollment Management” by John M. Baworowsky that was posted in The Chronicle of Higher Education, found here: http://chronicle.com/blogs/headcount/the-next-big-thing-in-enrollment-management/34131.

Baworowsky suggests that enrollment managers need to improve their skills in using social media tools. I’m in my early 20s, not much older than our traditional aged college students now, and I grew up with computers and social media. John Coach, Apple’s vice president for education, told Baworowsky that “a piece of technology is considered technology only by those who lived before it was created.” I thought that was a very interesting point, and something I hadn’t considered before. I certainly take computers for granted since I grew up with them, but someone a little older than I remembers what it was like to do financial aid calculations by hand. We can all work better to understand the new ways of communication that our students, and prospective students, are using.

Baworowsky says that “social media are the equivalent of the telephone for today’s students.” I’ve heard stories from my mom about the days where she would use the telephone party line to make calls, and how the telephone was seen as such a great tool back then. Today, I would much rather text someone, have an online chat, or Facebook them instead of calling. Even e-mail is going the way of the dinosaur for most students as it doesn’t offer the immediate response they crave. Forget sending something in the mail; chances are that students will not read it. Are you taking that into account when you reach out to your students? Does your office have a Facebook or Twitter? What about an online chat option?

Social media also allows your school to have a more personal relationship with students. They see your office as not a huge scary place that they are intimidated to approach, but as individuals willing to help. In addition, social media could help increase enrollment at your institution– Baworowsky lists some great examples in the article.

Check out Baworowsky’s article and then let’s start a discussion about what your college or university does and what you would like to do to better reach students. Hopefully we can all take away some good ideas!

Ashley Coleman, University of Oregon

If You Build it, Will They Come? The Benefits of Using Social Media in the Financial Aid Office

Linda Peckham, M.Ed
Senior Training Strategist
Lakes Higher Education Corporation and Affiliates

Higher education at large has responded to the social media boon by strategically utilizing Facebook and other platforms to improve admissions, yield, community relations and even alumni giving. Why then, has the financial aid community been slower to respond? Concerns about office resources and how and when to post content are the most common reasons offered by aid leaders when asked about their lack of a social media presence. Ironically, schools with a successful financial aid social media presence have reaped substantial returns on investment with minimal use of staff time when they have deployed a strategic approach to a social media plan.

“Start with your mission,” advises Amanda B. Carter, associate director of financial aid at the University of Rochester. “We made the decision to enter the space based on who we are as an aid office and our desire to communicate more regularly with students.” The University of Rochester successfully launched a Twitter account for financial aid in January and currently uses it to push out critical information about deadlines and policies. Strategically, they made the decision to only adopt Twitter and to continue to share a Facebook presence with the admissions office. Carter reports that one staff person is responsible for posting tweets and monitoring responses and generally spends about 30 minutes a day on this effort.

Northeastern University took a broader approach to using social media tools. “Financial aid offices often have a difficult time building trust and good communications with students so we saw social media as an important strategy for us,” explains Jim Slattery, Senior Director of Financial Aid. Anya Morozkina, assistant director of communications and administration for the office, and the staff person responsible for the social media presence, concurs, “We wanted to change the perception among the students about the aid office. We are not the grinches on campus. We want students to know that they can reach out to us and we are ready to help them.”

Morozkina notes that Northeastern’s strategy is focused on gaining a larger student audience and improving perceptions about the office. As a result, they have implemented a long term plan for posting content and update their Facebook page every other day. Content updates might include information about broader financial aid topics including articles reposted from NASFAA and other financial aid sources. Morozkina also recommends seeking topical ideas from student employees. “They know what their peers want.”

Liz Gross, director of university marketing and communications at the University of Wisconsin-Waukesha, also encourages aid offices to embrace social media as part of their mission to serve students. “Social media can allow you to inform, connect and make a positive impression. Most aid offices are still thinking about it as only a one-way communication platform.” She notes that aid professionals need to think about “the social media space as a community where you can publicly help students solve problems. It’s really a way to turn your complainers into your champions.”

Fullerton College has successfully embraced Facebook as an opportunity to improve customer service and student impressions about the financial aid office. Greg Ryan, director of financial aid, notes that their Facebook presence allows them to respond to student concerns within minutes and has resulted in dramatic decreases in phone calls to the office and shorter lines during peak periods. He also reports that over the three years since Fullerton implemented a Facebook page for the office, the amount of time he spends responding has diminished. “The student community now does most of the work. Students respond to each other and answer financial aid questions through the community page. And also publicly thank the office when we’ve been responsive to their concerns.”

Gross says that Fullerton’s experience is exactly what the goal should be for the financial aid office in the social media world: “You need to think about cultivating a community over time so that students begin to answer the questions for their peers. That’s what you want in the long run. Students want to hear from other students about how to resolve processing or deadline issues.”

Financial aid offices that have developed a social media presence based on strategy have successfully improved student service and campus perceptions about their office. As Gross sums up, “A social media presence provides public proof that your office is there to help.”

Suggestions for starting your financial aid office social media effort:

  • Start with your mission and build your communication plan from there.
  • Build a semester-long communication calendar so you can plan content in advance.
  • Refresh your content as often as you can–every other day if possible.
  • Use student employees to help write content and respond to posts.
  • Develop a social media policy in advance, including guidelines for how you will handle derogatory comments.