Modern Day Superheroes: Financial Aid Officers

A tribute to the financial aid community: From a customer-service focus to analytic skills, financial aid teams help students achieve dreams.

By Heather Borries Murff and Brenda Walton

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 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 students 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.

Analytical Skill

For our heroes, sometimes it comes down to the numbers. At a single glance, we must analyze the data from all 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 about 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. We must understand and manage yearly changes to verification, gainful employment reporting, and changes to processing and compliance issues. How is a superhero going to keep up? Of course … we rely on our network of professional friends. We have colleagues at other institutions who we talk over new regulatory changes with, and we attend workshops and annual conferences (our own personal superhero’s meeting). We use 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 superhero 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 the making of tomorrow’s superheroes.

Heather Borries Murff and Brenda Walton are Client Services Directors at Global. Their blog was originally posted on June 20, 2018, and has been updated.

The third Wednesday of October is Financial Aid Day, set aside to recognize the contributions of financial aid professionals.
The third Wednesday of October is Financial Aid Day, set aside to recognize the contributions of financial aid professionals and their work to help students achieve dreams.