I was wondering, who is a Financial Aid Officer, Financial Aid Administrator, or Financial Aid Counselor? We go by many titles and wear many different hats, just like some of our favorite cape-wearing superheroes.
The caped crusaders of the Financial Aid world are unsung heroes of the campus. They are counselors, budget managers, supervisors, saviors, implementers of Federal regulations, data keepers, jugglers, and magicians. We perform death-defying feats of communicating with students in order to explain their aid package and the verification process. More importantly, as heroes we must be customer service orientated, have superior analytical skills, and have the ability to understand and manage regulations.
Customer Service Focus
The cape wearing Financial Aid officer must focus on providing the students and their parents with excellent customer service. After all, they will be discussing a sensitive topic, the family’s financial situation. We must call upon their superhuman strength of patience and understanding when discussing a student’s financial plan that includes out of pocket financing, especially when it was not expected. We navigate these difficult conversations with a high degree of professionalism, ensuring they have been given truthful information, prompt responses, and accurate processing. It’s just like leaping over a tall building in a single bound, am I right? Excellent customer service is a cornerstone of retaining students. Besides customer service skills, we must put on the cape of analytics.
For our heroes, sometimes it comes down to the numbers. At a single glance, we must analyze the data from all of the different sources, so we can provide senior leadership with our best predictions on the outcome for the upcoming start and report back the numbers. That means we focus on operations, engage in data analysis and strategic projections regarding budgets, enrollment and the strategic uses of Title IV, state and institutional aid. In fact, I wished I had a secret financial aid cave with a supercomputer that could analyze all data and print out my reports.
Ability to Understand and Manage Regulations
When Federal regulations come and go, I feel like I am trapped in a time loop without the powerful Time Stone (think Year-Round Pell and IRS DRT). We must understand and manage yearly changes to verification, gainful employment reporting, changes to G-845 processing, compliance issues, etc. How is a superhero going to keep up? Of course…we rely on our network of professional friends. We have colleagues at other institutions that we talk over the new regulatory changes and we attend workshops and annual conferences (our own personal super hero’s meeting). We utilize a variety of mailing lists where we share the latest important changes that impact our daily workflow.
At the End of the Day
The secondary definition of a superhero according to Merriam Webster’s Dictionary is an exceptionally skillful or successful person. In the end, the most rewarding part of being a super hero is seeing your students achieve their dreams and becoming a hero themselves. So, get out there and save the day! You are playing an important role in tomorrow’s super heroes.