WASFAA Conference: If I Knew Then What I Know Now

Another interesting session from the upcoming WASFAA Conference is entitled “If I Knew Then What I Know Now.” Here’s the session description:

Join this session as we ask veteran panelists “Given your many years of experience, what advice or tips would you give the new or mid-level administrator to help them better understand this program and this profession – tips that took you years to learn or knowledge that would have better served you and your students had you known it earlier in your career?  What philosophy, regulation, professional development approach, or communication style have you used that has served you well?  What pieces of sage advice were you given that have stayed with you over the years?  What do you wish every administrator would know or learn?”  Bring your own questions as this panel will be hard to keep down.

Did you know that the very first record of financial aid was on May 9, 1643? Lady Ann Radcliffe Mowlson gave 100 English Pounds to Harvard College to support needy students. Look what she started…

Sequestration: Helpful Links

Hello WASFAA members,

As you all should be aware, Sequestration is upon us.  I am finding lots of information (articles in news venues, from the Department of Education, etc) being distributed through NASFAA Today’s News.  Today alone there were at least three articles about Sequestration. Even if you are not a member of NASFAA, you can access these articles via their website at http://www.nasfaa.org/TodaysNews.aspx.

The Department of Education posted an electronic announcement on March 1, 2013 on the “Impact of Sequestration on Title IV Student Financial Assistance”.  You can access it through IFAP or via NASFAA Today’s News.

Also, there was an article posted in USA Today College, March 3, 2013.  From the article you can download a spreadsheet that NASFAA has put together providing their estimate on the cuts for schools to SEOG and FWS.  This spreadsheet was originally posted on the NASFAA Today’s News on February 26, 2013.


Jack Edwards
2012-13 WASFAA President

The original article can be found at USA Today at http://www.usatodayeducate.com/staging/index.php/ccp/sequestration-impact-outlined-school-by-school or via NASFAA Today’s News at http://www.nasfaa.org/TodaysNews.aspx.  Please note, NASFAA’s “Financial Aid in the News” section highlights media coverage of financial aid to help members stay up to date with the latest news. Inclusion in Today’s News does not imply endorsement of the material or guarantee the accuracy of information presented.


Kay Soltis visits ALASFAA Conference

Hello from ALASFAA (Alaska)!

I am attending the ALASFAA Conference at Alaska Pacific University in Anchorage, Alaska for President Edwards.  I know Jack would have enjoyed this beautiful state.  It is very cold here but the sun is shining and the temperature is 31 degrees in the day time and down to 12 degrees in the evening.  There are 29 attendees today including a high school counselor and tomorrow there will be an additional 26 attendees – high school counselors, academic advisers and scholarship agencies.

New Bylaws were passed  in their Business Meeting and ALASFAA’s current president Ashley Munro and President Elect Phong Moua encourage nominations for the open leadership opportunities. The Association gave away three scholarships for conference registrations and a drawing will take place at the end of the conference to all paid attendees for a paid registration to the WASFAA conference in May in Phoenix, AZ

The US Department of Education Training Officer Kim (Schreck) Wells gave the Federal Update via conference call and was appreciated.   The Association offered a community collaboration program by offering a track for non-financial aid professionals with sessions on Financial Aid 101, Information on the FAFSA and Financial Aid Requirements to high school and funding agencies to better understand the financial aid process.  The opportunity was so well received the association will be offering the workshop again in Fairbanks early next month.

Thank you to my host Ashley Munro, the staff at University of Alaska, Fairbanks and the ALASFAA association for their gracious hospitality and very informative conference.

Kay Soltis
Past WASFAA President

Where in the World is Jack? – Arizona State Conference

I am in Arizona this week at the AASFAA Conference.  Yesterday the conference kicked off with their keynote speaker, Ken Bennett, Arizona Secretary of State.  He spoke about where the money comes from and how it is spent within the state of Arizona.  It was an awesome presentation, since he spoke in language that we could understand, not using acronyms that we are so used to.  

Attendance for the conference is down, something that is happening at many state conferences that I have visited,  but they have 31 first time attendees.  There are many sessions to choose from ranging from Default Management to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.  Today I will be on a panel with other Directors for a Q&A session on Best Practices.



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.