National Financial Aid Day, the third Wednesday of October every year, is all about celebrating the thousands of financial aid professionals who help drive student financial success. Helping students navigate the world of financial aid (terminology, deadlines, requirements, understanding borrowing decisions, and more) is crucial to maximizing the life-changing opportunity higher education presents. So much of the hard work dedicated financial aid professionals perform happens behind the scenes--and their actions are crucial to driving student financial success.
We asked you to share your office success stories, challenges you’ve overcome, and ways you’re driving innovation in this year’s #FinAidRockstar contest—and the results were #Awesome! Forty-eight institutions entered, recognizing their teams and colleagues for helping student’s access higher education, make informed borrowing decisions, and reach their educational goals.
Read on for the official winners of the 2019 #FinAidRockstar contest! We've also included a few honorable mentions.
2019 #FinAidRockstar Contest Winners
1st Place—Perry Technical Institute: One Goal, Helping Students
"Our Financial Aid Team at Perry Technical Institute (PTI) truly goes above and beyond for our students! As the Director of Financial Aid, I have the privilege to be a part of this amazing team! Jennifer Snellink, Financial Aid & Veteran's Coordinator, has been with us for six years and three months. She graduated from our Business Technology & Accounting program and began as our work study student. She has been in several roles and is always willing to learn. I overhear her speaking with students and their families, and I can tell she truly enjoys helping them have a financial plan for school. Alexis Ladiges, Financial Aid Specialist, has been with us a year and three months. She also is a Business Technology & Accounting graduate from PTI. Alexis brings joy to our department every day. Her smile and positive attitude is contagious! She also attends high school Financial Aid Nights to help students with their applications. Maddie Sells, Financial Aid Loan Specialist, has been with us a year and two months. She joined our team with an exciting energy, ready to learn and help. She surely jumped right in and was eager to soak up all the knowledge she could about financial aid. In her role she conducts in-person entrance and exit loan counseling. She also just recently jump-started a mid-way financial literacy program where she does a brief presentation to students about being smart borrowers and thinking outside the box for scholarships to help with reducing loans and just costs overall. She's very innovative with one goal in mind: "How can we be more valuable to our students?"
I truly enjoy coming to work each day not only because I know we are making a difference in students' lives, but also having a great team who work so well together for our one goal: Helping Students!"
Submitted by Mayra Fernandez, Director of Financial Aid, Perry Technical Institute
2nd Place—Southern Oregon University: A Team Like No Other
"TEAM FAO@SOU are #FinAidRockstars all day, every day. Shout out to Southern Oregon University (SOU) Team FAO Assistant Director Karinda Decker for working night and day to get ScholarshipUniverse up and running and the staff trained while keeping all the daily processes running, reports flowing, and Banner® working (because, let's be honest— that takes work). Shout out to Paul Coffelt and Jason Piazza for holding down the FA Counselor job while keeping verification flowing by using StudentForms. We are currently just one week out on verifications for Fall term—unheard of!
Shout out to Eric Walker, our Compliance Officer, who is dedicated to keeping us in compliance and making sure we have effective processes to fulfill our mission to SOU and the Department of Education. Last but not least, Stephanie Hanigan who is in charge of holding down the VA portion of our office and scholarships. All together, we are a team of #FinAidRockstars day in and day out. We wake up every morning, drink a cup of coffee, and bust out the work that it takes to help students achieve their educational goals."
Submitted by Kristen Gast, Director of Financial Aid, Southern Oregon University
3rd Place—Mid-State Technical College: We Love Coming to Work
"If we rewind two years and look at our financial aid office [at Mid-State Technical College], we were short-staffed and didn't have a manager/leader. Our school had to hire a temporary manager to stay in compliance. We were doing things the way we always had, one manual file at a time. Then we hired Mary Struthers, Manager of Financial Aid. Now fast forward to where we are today. Our office is like a well-oiled machine. She has brought this office into this century. We are now (almost completely) a paperless office where everything is scanned in and we can access every student's documents no matter which campus we are on. She also introduced Mass Packaging. Who ever thought that instead of packaging/awarding one student at a time we would be able to package 300 or more at a time?! What a great place to work and what great people to work with!! Not everyone can say they love coming to work every day—I guess I am one of the lucky ones! :)"
Submitted by Brandi Zeman, Financial Aid Assistant, Mid-State Technical College
Honorable #FinAidRockstar Mentions
Cypress College: Happy Students, Proactive Staff
"CampusLogic's student verification [StudentForms] is a lifesaver. Ever since [Cypress College] joined the CampusLogic family, we have seen not just an increase in efficiency (file completion turnaround times), but also staff and student satisfaction! Students are happy with the 24/7 ability to complete their files and real-time updates of their status. Staff get to see a simplified verification process and smart review of financial aid files. Our office has been able to become more proactive in reaching out to students due to the time saved on verification!"
Submitted by Christopher West, Financial Aid Technician, Cypress College
Lake Michigan College: A Spirit of Togetherness
"It is possible if you have CampusLogic by your side and an awesome, determined team! We had lost half of the financial aid staff to different circumstances, just as Lake Michigan College (LMC) started the StudentForms project. Now we were in January 2019, with only half of a team—and most of them new to Financial Aid. Nevertheless, we wanted to go live with StudentForms for aid year 19-20. We made it by April 2019! How? CampusLogic (CL) was on our side and we had a team willing to make it work. We were live with StudentForms with a short training period. CL was there for us through the whole process and LMC rose to the occasion. Not only was our FA team willing to move forward, but the whole LMC Student Services team embraced the new way of submitting documents and were ready to assist students with their questions. I only have a couple of things to say: GO LMC TEAM, that is the spirit of togetherness!! And a shout-out to the CL team for your commitment to assist us!"
Submitted by Carmen Pagan, Banner Systems Analyst, Lake Michigan College
Eastern Gateway Community College: Student-First, Kindness-Focused
"What I see in the [Eastern Gateway Community College] financial aid staff and why they are rockstars: The employees are dedicated to their job to be efficient and to always have the student at the forefront of their decisions. Each employee is respectful of one another and supportive. If an employee is having a hard day, whether work related or in their personal life, the other employees are always there to listen and be supportive to help them through the day. The employees do enjoy being with each other during their workday, and it pleases me to hear laughter during the day. They may be laughing, but they are always attentive to the tasks on their desks. If one staff member is struggling with a process for some reason, the other employees step up to guide that employee. They are very kind and are enjoyable to work with on a daily basis. They are Financial Aid Rockstars!"
Submitted by Brenda Mallis, Assistant Director of Financial Aid, Eastern Gateway Community College
Thank You to All Who Entered
Student success takes a village, and student financial success is a crucial component of it. Thank you to everyone who entered for all of the work you and your teams are doing to help students make informed decisions about financing higher education. From everyone at CampusLogic, THANK YOU!