Newly Certified Financial Aid Administrator Offers Insight on the Certification Process

By Jayna Johns, NASFAA Communications Staff 

The National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators’ launch of the new Certified Financial Aid Administrator™ (CFAA) Program is already making waves as a boost to the financial aid profession, with 75 individuals recently earning their professional certification in the last several months.

The CFAA Program, created for financial aid professionals who are dedicated to advancing their careers, is designed to complement on-the-job expertise. This voluntary certification brings a valuable benchmark to the financial aid community, providing the foundation for continued professional development and career growth.

One of the first to earn his certification, Marvin Smith, executive director of student financial services at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, said although he was at first uncertain about becoming certified—questioning whether he’d be able to pass a closed-book  exam—the designation may give him “a bit more legitimacy as a financial aid professional with my financial aid colleagues, as well as with colleagues on my own campus.”

After reflecting on his 30 years of experience in financial aid, from larger institutions to a community college, as well as a variety of state, regional, and national training events he’s attended, Smith said he realized he needed to be a part of this effort. 

"I owed it to NASFAA and our profession to try,” said Smith, who was recently elected to NASFAA’s Board of Directors. “I realized my financial aid knowledge was a product of dedicated colleagues, co-workers, and Department of Education trainers sharing their experience and wisdom with me over the years.”

Keeping with the dedication of financial aid professionals to protect the integrity of student aid programs, the CFAA certification recognizes financial aid administrators for their role as stewards of taxpayer dollars and institutional funds, their contributions to the success of their institutions and their students, and their commitment to the highest standards of ethical behavior. 

The steps to certification are easy enough. First, individuals must complete an application online showing they meet all qualifying criteria. Upon approval of their application, candidates schedule their CFAA exam session during an upcoming testing window. They then prepare for the exam by reviewing the Exam Content Outline and the Core Resources identified in the CFAA Candidate Handbook. After taking the approximately two-hour exam, candidates will learn the outcome immediately and will be able to view a diagnostic report showing their performance in each content area.

“Once I took the test I realized I know a lot,” Smith said.

CFAA recognition brings with it a variety of career-boosting perks, such as invitations to participate in professional development opportunities, becoming part of the community of CFAAs, inclusion on the CFAA Registry, and importantly, public recognition and confirmation of your knowledge and experience as a financial aid professional.

“My hope is that a few years from now all financial aid professionals will receive a CFAA designation as part of a career path trajectory,” Smith added.


Publication Date: 7/3/2019

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