Financial Aid Professionals Continue Skill-Building at NASFAA Leadership Conference

By Allie Bidwell, Communications Staff

Financial aid professionals from around the country continued with intensive preparation and leadership skill-building sessions at NASFAA’s 2017 Leadership & Legislative Conference & Expo in Washington, DC Tuesday.

Throughout the last two days, the nearly 300 conference attendees attended sessions intended to provide them with the knowledge, perspective, and insight into certain leadership and management roles, such as enrollment management, association management, and leading as a new or aspiring aid director.

Here are some takeaways from a few Tuesday sessions in the four different pathways:

Joint Enrollment Management Idea Lab: What’s Going On?
To kick off the second day of the conference, attendees in both the Fundamentals of Enrollment Management and Strategic Enrollment Management pathways gathered for a morning session to discuss trending higher education issues that can affect enrollment. Led by Christine McGuire of Boston University, David Kalsbeek of Depaul University, Michael Kabbaz of Miami University, and NASFAA National Chair Lisa Blazer of the University of Texas at San Antonio, the session explored issues such as recruiting international students, addressing economic inequality on campus, the value proposition of higher education and measuring outcomes, and different funding models for higher education. “There is a lot more to our job right now and that’s why we play such an important role in the world of enrollment management,” Blazer said. “We have a unique perspective. This is our opportunity … to impact students pretty incredibly.”

Association Management Idea Lab: Improving the Odds of Volunteerism
In this session – moderated by Lisa Blazer of University of Texas at San Antonio and Joe Donlay of Colorado State University – those in the Association Management pathway had the opportunity to explore different methods for drawing more association members into volunteer opportunities, and making sure the experience is valuable for both the members and the association. “There’s a whole host of things we need to think about as association leaders,” Blazer said, noting the different generations, populations, and levels of participation that vary between associations. Session attendees said some other challenges could include geographical limitations of members, how to balance personal time with volunteering, finding new volunteers (rather than having repeat volunteers), highlighting the value of the experience, a lack of institutional support, or mentorship during transition times. Blazer and Donlay encouraged the attendees to make sure each segment of their membership is represented appropriately by reaching out and widening their search for volunteers. They also encouraged attendees to make sure they have a clear mission and vision for volunteers, clearly identify how much time is required, and make sure volunteers understand the expectations of the position.

Strategic Enrollment Management Idea Lab: A Balancing Act: Goals, Fiscal Realities, and Trade-Offs
During this session, moderated by Christine McGuire of Boston University, attendees in the Strategic Enrollment Management pathway took a deep dive into issues such as tuition revenue, discounting, budgeting and aid packaging. They walked through scenarios in which an aid director might be asked to lower a discount rate, or change merit-based or need-based award amounts to meet certain enrollment management goals. McGuire also discussed the many factors that can influence yield – such as distance, cost, reputation, and the competitiveness of the student – and how tweaks in aid packages can influence which students (and how many) matriculate. McGuire also noted that assigning a competitiveness rating to students could be helpful for a few reasons. It could help aid offices make decisions about scholarship offers, including how much to offer particular students. It could also help in estimating the yield of students, which could allow for a better projection of how much money will be spent. “Some kind of a meritocracy might be part of a strategy that makes sense to your school, in the context of the mission of your school,” McGuire said.

New & Aspiring Aid Directors: Director Panel Discussion
To conclude the conference sessions for this pathway, attendees in the New & Aspiring Aid Directors pathway had the opportunity to ask questions of a panel of experienced aid directors, including Dan Mann of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (and past NASFAA National Chair), Billie Jo Hamilton of the University of South Florida (and NASFAA National Chair-elect), and Mary Sommers of the University of Nebraska–Kearney. Participants asked the panel what they wish they knew when they started as aid directors. Hamilton said she wished she recognized what a large role politics play in the job, and Sommers said she wished she had a better understanding of “how the money works,” and the finance side. The panel also discussed maintaining a work-life balance, managing stress, and highlighting the accomplishments within their offices, such as compiling an annual report, or letting the storytelling happen organically through working with other groups on campus.


Publication Date: 3/1/2017

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