Professional Development & Training

Fundamental to our goal of advancing the profession of financial aid administrators is the ability to provide relevant and exceptional professional development and training opportunities. The opportunities and resources range from "nuts & bolts" financial aid training to strategic enrollment management and student support, as well as leadership skills.

  1. What is professional development?
  2. Why is professional development important?
  3. How can I justify the investment in professional development?
  4. What are the steps to create a professional development plan?
  5. What professional development resources are available?

What is professional development?

Professional development is continual learning intended to help one develop new skills, gain experience, stay up to date, and advance their career. It includes a range of activities including, but not limited to, the following:

  • Academic degrees
  • Professional credentials
  • Conference or workshop attendance/presentation
  • Informal on-the-job learning or job shadowing
  • Online courses and webinars
  • Books
  • Articles
  • Participation in professional organizations
  • Job assignments/increased duties and responsibilities
  • Developmental relationships (e.g. mentorship, role model, counselor)

Why is professional development important?

Crucial to succession planning

Professional development is a key component of succession planning. We need to acquire knowledge and skills to prepare ourselves to advance to the next career level. A team that actively engages in professional development activities is likely to be more prepared to navigate staffing transitions.

Improves performance

Professional development improves performance. It expands knowledge, exposes us to new ideas, and increases our expertise. It provides us with greater confidence to meet — and even exceed — the expectations of our job.

Contributes to employee retention and engagement

The cost of employee turnover is high. Employers who offer and encourage professional development give employees more reasons to stay with their institution. It signals an investment in the employee's long-term success, growth, and advancement. It shows that you care about them as a person, not just what they do currently for your operations.

Essential in the ever-changing world of financial aid

Change is a consistent part of the financial aid profession. Staying up to date with new and upcoming changes in regulations, Department of Education guidance, and industry best practices helps to keep us compliant. Even if you work in a large financial aid office and have staff dedicated to compliance, it's important to remember that compliance is everyone's job, and professional development can support a culture of communal ownership of compliance.

Opens pathways to opportunity

Professional development can include activities that create new opportunities, such as expanding your professional network and igniting new interests and passions.

How to justify the investment in professional development

Communicate the Return on Investment (ROI)

The ROI can include benefits like employee retention, employee morale, succession planning, and improvement to performance. In the world of financial aid, the ROI may also include the ability to avoid costly compliance errors. Whenever possible, articulate these benefits in terms of money saved  (e.g. the cost of audit or program review fines that training and networking that can help correct).

Expand the opportunity

When one employee engages in professional development (e.g. attending a conference, taking an online course, etc.), the benefits don't need to be limited to that individual. Foster a culture of learning and teaching by asking team members to share what they've learned with their team. This can be done via presentations, post-conference reports, tip sheets, and more.

Create an action plan

This can demonstrate to leadership what positive impacts professional development can have on your institution.

Connect with institutional goals

Aligning professional development requests with your institution's mission, goals, and core values can be a powerful tool.

Use your source

Often the organization, person, or company providing professional development can provide you with support, including documentation and other resources to help justify the investment and answer questions.

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