Professional Credentials Do Matter - NASFAA U Credential Earners Share Their Stories

By Brittany Hackett, Communications Staff 

NASFAA University started with a simple idea: create a credentialing program financial aid administrators can use to prove their knowledge, show their expertise, and boost their professional development. Fast forward to 2015 and NASFAA has awarded hundreds of credentials, see the Honor Roll for the current list.

As NASFAA U continues to grow, so does the number of financial aid professionals who are earning multiple credentials in a variety of financial aid topics, including 22 who have earned five or more credentials. These professionals represent all sectors of higher education and all positions and levels of expertise within a financial aid office.

So what keeps them coming back for more? NASFAA reached out to six multiple-credential earners for their stories. Read on to find out what motivates them to continue their financial aid education – and how they have reaped the benefits of NASFAA U.

Michael Campbell, Vice President for Financial Aid and Compliance at American Business & Technology University (ABTU), St. Joseph, MO – 9 Credentials: After 21 years in the financial aid profession, there wasn’t a whole lot Campbell hadn’t experienced. That is until he accepted a position as a consultant for ABTU, a proprietary online school serving about 325 students, in May of 2013. 

Brought on in the midst of a program review, Campbell was faced with the challenges of the Return of Title IV Funds (R2T4) in a non-traditional setting. 

“I had literally done hundreds and hundreds of R2T4s on the federal system, so I felt like I knew what I was doing,” Campbell, now employed full-time by the school, said. “But you really only know what you’re doing in your own little corner of the world. … I could see that NASFAA U would help me start to put all those things together for the bigger picture,” he said.

Campbell chose R2T4 as his first NASFAA U online class because he “wanted to be able to tell the program reviewer that I had enrolled in [the class] and was taking their concerns seriously.”

Since then, Campbell has taken courses and earned credentials in nine of the 10 subjects offered by NASFAA U and plans to take four more classes in the spring. 

“It’s just great to get those kind of credentials, and as you move between schools you have different situations and it’s a way to help fill the gaps,” he said. “I would strongly encourage people to talk to their supervisor or upper level management to get them on board with these classes.”

Brenda Murtha, Director of Financial Aid at Augustana College, Sioux Falls, SD – 7 Credentials: Murtha’s involvement with NASFAA U began in 2011 when it was only an item on a NASFAA task force agenda. She was hooked on the idea.

“Nobody majors in financial aid or plans to go into the field … but from the start you learn so much on the job,” Murtha, who has worked in financial aid for 30 years, said. NASFAA U is “a great way” to quantify that knowledge, she added.

Since it’s launch, Murtha has earned seven credentials and plans to go for all 10 that are currently available. She received her first four credentials within weeks of each other using NASFAA’s Self-Study Guides and CORE materials to prepare her for the credential exams.

Murtha, who has also served as an adjunct instructor for NASFAA U, said she most enjoys the challenge of learning new information and interacting with other students in a NASFAA U course. “I’m just so excited that this opportunity exists for our profession,” said Murtha.

Brooke Kile, Director of Compliance, Policy & Improvement at Columbia College Chicago, IL – 5 Credentials: Professional development was the name of the game for Kile and her colleagues when they started participating in NASFAA U. “We thought it would be a good way to help our staff grow in different areas of their profession,” she said, noting that the credentials they have earned “have helped reassure others on our campus that our policies are up-to-date, compliant and reflective of industry best practices.”

Kile, who earned her first credential through a class on professional judgment and went on to earn four additional credentials, noted that the program is a valuable resource for keeping up with the ever changing regulatory environment. 

Specifically, she has taken what she has learned and improved Columbia’s cost of attendance construction and need analysis. 

“The credentials are more than just a piece of paper. They represent a commitment to providing your students with the best possible experience in navigating this complex financial aid environment,” said Kile, who also serves as a NASFAA U adjunct instructor and plans to earn more credentials. 

Melanie Rinehart, Staff Accountant at St. Gregory’s University, Shawnee, OK – 5 Credentials: Like many financial aid professionals, Rinehart’s initial knowledge of the industry was limited to her experience as a college student and the busy nature of St. Gregory’s financial aid office left little time for training. The four-year private liberal arts school serves 660 students, 584 of whom receive financial aid.

“I knew that I needed to find a reliable resource to teach me the details of what seemed to be a very complex subject,” Rinehart said.

Rinehart participated in a NASFAA U Regional Boot Camp in November 2013, which qualified her to test for five credentials. After studying the Boot Camp materials and Self-Study Guides, she passed all five tests in March.

“Hands down, they made me better at what I do,” said Rinehart, who has since moved on to a position in St. Gregory’s Business Office. “My credentials just increased my ability to provide above par customer service to all of those that I served.”

Though Rinehart is not currently working in the aid office, she expects that the credential she earned will help advance her career in higher education. “Even if it is not in financial aid, having achieved recognition of expertise by a national organization is impressive on any resume,” Rinehart said, adding that she would encourage her colleagues to participate in NASFAA U. “You will be not only yourself a service, but also your students, your school, and your co-workers.”

Angel Harmon, Program Analyst/Compliance Officer at The Ohio State University - 5 Credentials: Harmon decided to go for a credential in student eligibility in 2013 after hearing about a colleague who was attempting to earn one. 

After taking her first online course, Harmon transitioned into a compliance role within her office and decided to continue taking online courses and earning credentials in a variety of topics that enhance would her new responsibilities. 

Harmon is currently preparing to test for a credential in campus-based programs and plans to take more courses in the future. “Mainly the goal is to continue to take as many as they offer, and if I can earn credentials in all of them, that’s great,” she said.

Jayson Tinsley, Director of Regulatory Affairs for the University of Phoenix, Phoenix, AZ – 5 Credentials: Tinsley’s involvement with NASFAA U began when his leadership team set a goal that all department members attempt at least one NASFAA U credential per quarter. 

“My role within the institutions requires me to know what the regulatory requirements are or to be able to quickly access them via the available resources and then be able to interpret them,” Tinsley said, adding that NASFAA U “has served more as a refresher than a learning tool” in that regard.

Tinsley has earned a total five credentials, which he said have helped him “continue to engage with my professional association, which I feel is integral to developing and enhancing my professional network.”

Interested in learning more about NASFAA U? Check out our web center for ways you can earn a credential! Already earned a NASFAA U credential? Share your experience with your colleagues in the comments section below.


Publication Date: 11/4/2014

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