Director of Financial Aid Services
As a first-generation American and first-generation college student, Ernesto Nery used the challenges he faced early in life to set a high standard for himself, particularly when it came to career aspirations. With a passion for leadership and mentoring those who faced similar life obstacles, Ernesto found an opportunity to do so through education and financial aid, having been provided a path to a degree through his early interactions with financial aid, which also showed him first-hand the complex system that students face to pay for college.
Now in the role of director of financial aid services at Merritt College, Ernesto leads his team in maintaining compliance and keeping up with federal and state regulations, while striving to give students the support and resources they need — both financially and on a personal level — to succeed in their pursuit of a degree.
"As a leader in student services, I want to ensure students feel welcomed at our college, are aware of financial aid opportunities to them, and have access to apply and receive institutional, state, and federal aid regardless of race, gender, socioeconomic background, or identity," he said.
Learn more about Ernesto in the brief Q&A below.
How does your perspective impact how you do your job and approach financial aid?
Financially, I struggled a lot while going through college. I didn't have the support of my parents, and lacked knowledge of how to navigate through the college system. It was the support of college staff and counselors that guided me through the process of applying for financial aid and getting me back on track to graduation. I take into account that each student experience is different. As important as it is to provide financial resources, it is crucial that students understand their responsibility when receiving aid to avoid financial disqualification or academic dismissal.
Why is diversity important to the profession of financial aid and higher education?
Culture and diversity have a huge impact on the success of students. It is important as educators working in student affairs that we acknowledge and celebrate diversity whether its race, ethnicity, socioeconomic background, or sexual identity. Being of a multi-racial background, work and familial support is prioritized over the value of education. In addition, due to the cultural norms of what was socially acceptable by my parents, I had no support from my family because I identified with the LGBTQ+ communities. Working in financial aid, it is important to me as an administrator to acknowledge that there are underrepresented populations and recognize the uniqueness and individuality of the student populations we work with.
What motivates you to work hard?
My motivation is my family and friends. My parents immigrated to the United States for a better life for their children. Regardless of the social barriers, I want to prove to myself and my family that through persistence, hard work, and dedication, anything can happen.
Any hidden talents?
I have stage fright and I am terrified of speaking in public. Although my fear of this is not a hidden talent, I was able to conquer this. Instead of avoiding presentations, I have pushed myself to take advantage of public speaking opportunities. I have done financial aid presentations both virtually and in-person, and have benefited from presenting at local and state conferences. I am especially thrilled to be presenting for the first time at the Third Annual California Community College LGBTQ+ Summit.
What do you do when you're not working?
I have learned to include fitness as part of my hectic schedule. I lift weights four to five times a week. I also have four adorable Shetland Sheepdogs that I am constantly grooming, training, and giving my undivided attention.
Publication Date: 3/3/2021