One of the most valuable resources in financial aid is the network you create. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve benefited from the experiences and knowledge of those I’ve met along my journey. With more than 6,000 colleges spread far and wide across this country—many that exist in academic deserts, with limited access to other schools—we need easier ways to connect across the miles.
And let’s be really honest right now. It’s insane to think that one person can manage 13,000 pages of federal regulations and guidance on Title IV on their own. We need each other’s support to navigate a complex maze of regulations, policies, procedures, and student requests. I’m here to tell you about a new resource—the Student Financial Success Slack Community—and all the ways it can make your life easier.
An All-Too-Familiar Example
Let’s set the scene. You’re on the west coast and it’s late on a Friday afternoon. Auditors are scheduled to show up at your door Monday morning. And you’ve just realized you missed a very important electronic announcement. All of your files may have an issue.
What do you do—aside from cry, scream, and spend the weekend looking for a loophole? Considering the time, you know that all of your east coast colleagues are already at home, busy with their families and life outside the aid office.
You start to run through options to get help from the FA community—because let’s face it, if you could just get in touch with someone, you KNOW they’d help you. That’s what our community does, we help. You think of all the ways to reach your community. The Listserve. Twitter. State, regional, and national conferences. Each of these are great spaces to collaborate and network, but they have limitations:
- Listserve: Thousands of people with great experience all who want to help. Not so awesome: It’s only email, so Q’s and answers can get buried. And you get alllllll the communications, even if you don’t want to. One-dimensional, it’s plain text—and pretty tough to have a true back-and-forth conversation to solve things quickly.
- Twitter: #FAchat helps you tap into the Twitter-sphere where FA has some definite Twitter Rockstars. But Twitter is public and real-time, so not the best place to ask questions or air dirty laundry.
- Conferences: State, regional, and national conferences are great places to network and talk shop. But they happen only a few times a year and best intentions to ‘reach out anytime’ don’t often happen.
The Third Place Concept
The guiding force of Starbucks has long been the concept of 'the third place'—the idea that people usually gather in two places, home or work. But people needed a ‘third place’ to meet—one that offered community, all the comforts of home, and was available anywhere they needed it.
What does 'the third place' look like for financial aid folks? We all have homes, and we all have FA offices. And while we have a lot of ways to try to connect—and even more places we go for information on job postings, regulations, etc.,—what we don’t have is a consistent third place that’s available 24/7 and all about the topics that matter to us. A community that can be customized to just the topics we want to engage in. A community that everyone can join.
Your Third Place Awaits: Student Financial Success Slack Community
The Student Financial Success Slack community just launched. It’s a nationwide network of financial aid, enrollment, and higher education professionals you want to join. In the Slack community, you can connect, network, debate, and share—all in one place. The Student Financial Success Slack community offers real-time interactions, threaded and searchable conversations, file sharing, and video conferencing. It’s where you can tap into the years of experience and best practices housed in the brains of thousands of aid professionals across the country—and you can answer questions and provide advice to others in the community. Best of all, the Slack community is mobile-friendly, available 24/7, and you can take it with you in your pocket. You also have full control over your profile settings, what information you share, and what notifications you get. You can use Slack on the web, there’s a desktop app available, and you can use an app on your phone. Check it out here!
This Community Needs You
The phrase “It takes a village” is not limited to child rearing. It is equally relevant to individuals in higher education. This is our opportunity to build the village that supports us, to join a group of like-minded individuals who want to do better tomorrow than we are doing today, by reducing the number of students who leave school each year with debt but no degree. This is our opportunity to join together with professionals who want to tear down the fences that have been built and become shepherds through the college funding journey. So go ahead, introduce yourself in the Student Financial Success community.