Last month, NASFAA hit a major milestone — our members earned more than 10,000 professional credentials in financial aid topics ranging from administrative capability and cash management to student eligibility and the return of Title IV funds. Plus, more members are completing all 17 training courses. What exactly has motivated so many financial aid professionals to pursue these credentials, and how have they impacted their careers? We’ve asked the first 10 members to earn all our credentials to tell us their stories:
Ashley Munro, associate director of financial aid at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, Fairbanks, AK:
Munro first entertained the idea of pursuing the credentials after she volunteered for a Western Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators’ (WASFAA) training conference and found that the staff was beginning to use NASFAA U materials. Since earning all 17 credentials, Munro said she is better equipped to help her students, such as by applying what she learned from courses on the Jay Treaty, which allows for Canadian-born Native Americans to be considered eligible non-citizens for the purpose of filing the FAFSA form, to help a Canadian student receive financial aid.
“I feel that I expanded my professional development skills,” Munro said. “I feel more confident in my answers when explaining situations to students or other financial aid professionals because of the materials and the credentials.”
Brandon Huiner, associate director of the Office of Financial Aid and Compliance at the University of Denver, Denver, CO:
Not only does the knowledge Huiner gained from studying and testing for the credentials assist him in his financial aid role at the University of Denver every day, but earning the credentials has also secured him a role at the Rocky Mountain Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (RMASFAA) Summer Institute, whose staff approached him after seeing his name on the credentials honor roll list.
“The NASFAA U study materials are a great resource for learning more about many of the topics that we, as financial aid professionals, may work with every day,” Huiner said. “I also feel that they can be a unique way to help ambitious financial aid professionals, especially newer ones, stand out in our field.”
Brian Weingart, senior director of state financial aid programs at the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission, Charleston, WV:
Weingart began pursuing the credentials early on his financial aid career, after he attended the Midwest Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (MASFAA) Summer Institute and was inspired by how passionate the staff was about in-depth knowledge of financial aid. In his current role, Weingart oversees statewide training in financial aid topics, and uses the knowledge he gained from the credentials when he leads sessions.
“It is easy to know the things we work with every day, but it is completely different to have a knowledge of an area that you do not work in,” Weingart said. “The credential tests make you study and know about areas that you don’t necessarily deal with in your day to day job. By expanding our knowledge, it helps us serve our students, our institutions, our profession.”
Donna Quick, vice president for marketing and enrollment at Emmanuel College, Franklin Springs, GA:
Quick pursued her first credentials to train members of the South Carolina Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (SCASFAA), and continued to complete all 17 to ensure she was up to date on new guidelines. Quick was then able to identify areas where internal policy wasn't consistent with federal guidelines, and began presenting at numerous conferences and serving as a reference for financial aid professionals.
“You don’t know what you don’t know,” Quick said. “It’s an excellent professional development opportunity. The study and testing process is a great way to identify areas in which you are already competent and areas in which you need assistance learning updates or nuances to current guidelines or completely new rules.”
Janet Dodson, former associate director of communications at Tuition Exchange Inc., Crete, NE:
Dodson took advantage of the opportunity to earn the credentials while serving as the chair of a RMASFAA training committee, where they were offered as training material. When looking to hire new staff in financial aid, Dodson said that candidates who have earned credentials stand out to her.
“The resume detailing financial aid credentials sparks my interest above other similar resumes,” Dodson said. “Earned professional credentialing provides me with additional reasons to believe the individual will be a dedicated professional.”
Justin Howe, financial aid advisor at the University of Nevada, Reno, NV:
Howe initially pursued the credentials at a WASFAA Sister Dale Brown Summer Institute training conference to get up to speed on financial aid topics when he began his career as a full-time advisor. Howe said he believes that the learning involved in earning each credential has helped him grow as a financial aid professional.
“Oftentimes the published laws, regulations, and guidance are somewhat unclear or vague, so finding an answer to a complex question turns into a bit of a treasure hunt,” Howe said. “The study guides for each credential have specific scenarios and explanations to clarify requirements and assist with troubleshooting efforts. For me, each credential is a nice pat on the back, but the materials available for earning them are invaluable.”
Karen Long-Trail, financial aid and registrar representative for enrollment services at Texas Woman’s University, Dallas, TX:
Long-Trail pursued her first five credentials at a Southwest Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (SWASFAA) boot camp in order to obtain a detailed picture of financial aid, and was inspired to complete the set on her own as the issues grew in complexity. Long-Trail said earning the credentials has made her more confident that she is providing the best service for her students and employers.
“Professional development is essential for financial aid administrators,” Long-Trail said. “The NASFAA U curriculum validates the financial aid professional is trained to the highest industry standards with training that is consistent and measurable.”
Kevin Piotrowski, assistant vice president of financial aid systems and operations at Southern New Hampshire University, Manchester, NH:
As the 2017 New Hampshire Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NHASFAA) president, Piotrowski embarked on earning all 17 credentials because he wanted to serve as a resource for his association's training committee on the NASFAA U courses. He continued to earn more credentials as they became relevant to his career, such as pursuing the Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) credential to develop his university's new SAP policy.
“There is no college degree for Title IV administration, so professional credentials for financial aid should be an essential part of the toolkit for any financial aid professional,” Piotrowski said. “Earning credentials is a great approach to learning about Title IV programs and concepts as well as validating and furthering your current understanding.”
Michael Campbell, director of financial aid at Ohio Technical College, Cleveland, OH:
With more than two decades of financial aid experience under his belt, Campbell took his first NASFAA U course to become more familiar with the R2T4 process while doing consulting work for a school with issues in that area . After the initial course, Campbell found himself eager to complete the set, and said he believes that earning these credentials has allowed him to see how different regulations fit together.
“I can say unequivocally that I am a far more effective consultant because of my NASFAA credentials,” Campbell said. “I can answer questions now, when three years ago I would not have understood many of the implications of the question.”
Myra Pfannenstiel, director of financial aid at Newman University, Wichita, KS:
Pfannenstiel said earning all 17 NASFAA credentials has enabled her to expand her networking circles by allowing her to lead credential-training sessions outside of her office, state, and region, and serve as a role model for professionals on her team, who have gone on to pursue credentials of their own.
“Regardless of what path your professional career takes, no one can take the knowledge you have away from you,” Pfannenstiel said. “The credentials are a great way to enhance your resume, not only by earning the credentials but by also sharing that knowledge with others.”
Check out our web center for ways you can earn a credential! Already earned a NASFAA credential? Share your experience with your colleagues in the comments section below.
Publication Date: 1/17/2018