MVP: Most Valuable Professional is an occasional series that features a brief Q&A with a different NASFAA member. Do you know a financial aid colleague with something interesting to say? Send the names of potential future MVPs and a short note about why you're nominating them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Meet Jeff Arthur. He began his 35-year career in the financial aid profession when he took a position as the financial aid director of the Nebraska College of Business after graduating from the University of Nebraska in 1984. For the past 26 years, Jeff has worked in the financial aid office at ECPI University, and said that “the mentoring and encouragement from colleagues in the financial aid associations, like Bob Walker at Creighton University, was key to my professional development.” In addition to working at ECPI, Jeff has served on two of the Department of Education’s negotiating rulemaking committees—most recently on one tasked with rewriting regulations related to gainful employment.
“I think the most important thing I tell anyone wishing to advance in their profession is to always say ‘yes’ when asked to take a larger role, be on a committee, run for a position, or present a session—even if it makes you uncomfortable,” Jeff said.
Jeff has served on NASFAA’s Policy Rapid Response Network for five years, which he said “fits my interest in legislative, regulatory, and student success issues,” as well as on NASFAA’s Program Integrity task force.
What is something you wish you knew your first year working in financial aid?
It takes two to three years to fully appreciate the impact we have on students’ lives. You work with first-generation college students when they enroll, but it isn’t until you see those exact same students progress through their program, graduate, and now have their first real career, that the impact really hits you. The pride their parents, spouses, children, and themselves have in their accomplishment is overwhelming.
How have you seen innovation in your career in financial aid?
The most impactful thing that ever happened to me in this profession was in 1987 when I discovered student information systems software, and led an implementation. People often think that my financial aid and chief information officer roles are an unusual combination. But financial aid operations place the greatest challenge to university administrative systems, so I think the roles complement well. Our profession is on the verge of major innovation, from technologies to running operations to the way students finance their education.
What’s one thing you love about working at ECPI University?
I love the intense focus on student success, and the dedicated staff I work with. Twenty of our staff have been in ECPI University’s financial aid department for 15 to 35 years. They and their families have earned many degrees here, and they passionately support and advocate for their students.
What’s on your desk right now?
Being a techno-geek, I’m pretty digital, so all I have is an iPhone X, iPad Pro, a Mac computer, and multiple monitors. I also display photos of family and the racehorses, Zenyatta and American Pharoah.
What on your calendar are you looking forward to the most?
A Mark Knopfler concert and a cool golf trip this summer.
Which actor would play you in a movie?
Matthew Broderick, but I’m afraid it would bomb.
What tactics do you use to connect with students?
Being a student-centered university, we have staff meet with every student face-to-face to assist them with each step in the financial aid process—all the way into their student loan repayment. We diligently use customer-relationship management (CRM) functionality to plan the next contact with each student, and are introducing more automation to help staff provide even better service.
What is a fear that you have overcome?
I used to dread making presentations in front of groups, but said “yes” anyway. Now I enjoy the opportunity.
What gadget or app saves you the most time?
Flixster—I’m always looking for a movie to see.
I have always wanted to … :
Have a horse in the Kentucky Derby or play golf at the Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia.
Want to say hello to Jeff or reply to something he said? Please leave your remarks in the comments section below. You can also take a look back at our past MVPs to read any you missed the first time around.
Do you know a financial aid colleague with something interesting to say? Send the names of potential future MVPs and a short note about why you're nominating them to email@example.com.
Publication Date: 2/28/2019