Meet Paula Luff, NASFAA's 2019-20 National Chair!
Paula is the associate vice president of enrollment services for DePaul University, having worked in financial aid for nearly three decades. Over the years, Paula has worked in state, regional, and national associations, leading financial aid professionals throughout the country.
Throughout her time in financial aid, Paula has been active in many different roles, previously serving on NASFAA's Board of Directors as a representative-at-large and Commission Director. She also sat on NASFAA's Association Governance Committee and the Financial Affairs Committee. In addition to her work at the national level, Paula is a past-president of both the Illinois Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (ILASFAA) and the Midwest Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (MASFAA). Paula has also represented the interest of financial aid administrators in federal negotiations, serving as an alternate on the Department of Education's Negotiated Rulemaking Program Integrity and Improvement Team.
As she begins her tenure as 2019-20 National Chair, Paula took some time to discuss with Today's News her goals for the next year and what inspires her as a financial aid professional.
TN: What do you think is the biggest issue facing the federal aid programs right now?
PL: There are many challenges in federal aid today. Externally, there are: constantly shifting regulations, a movement toward more institutional "skin-in-the-game," the public and media perception that student debt is "out of control," and the associated uninformed questioning of the value of a college degree. Additionally, there is ongoing tension between ensuring that students with need have access to funding while preventing wealthier students from receiving funding for which they are not eligible. This tension is the reason for verification, data matches, and many other labor-intensive requirements. So while our lawmakers want to aid students with need, the complexity required to deliver the funding makes the process much more difficult than necessary for all involved.
TN: What are your top three goals for your tenure as National Chair of NASFAA?
TN: Who has been the biggest professional influence for you over the years, and why?
PL: While there have been many over the years (including many wonderful folks I've met through NASFAA), my primary professional influences have come from Illinois—particularly past presidents of the state association (ILASFAA). They served as role models for me when I was first starting out, as mentors while I was in mid-career (and still to this day), and many are now friends for life. Their dedication to students and our profession, as well as their willingness to serve with integrity and grace, truly inspired me to be the best aid professional I could be—and they are not afraid to give honest feedback when needed!
TN: What is the best professional advice you have been given?
PL: Be kind, take risks, and be prepared for opportunities as they arise.
TN: If I were not working in financial aid, I would...
PL: Probably be a party planner. I love a good party!
TN: What is your favorite quote or song lyric?
PL: Too many to list, but most recently I've rediscovered Roosevelt's "The Man in the Arena" speech and it resonated strongly with me—look it up if you're not familiar with it.
TN: What's the one thing you won't skip—or shorten—in the morning?
PL: Coffee! I need a good cup in the morning to get moving, preferably on our back deck or somewhere I can see nature.
TN: What gadget or app saves you the most time?
PL: Online shopping. I do a lot of shopping for clothes, shoes, and general household stuff online. While it means running to the post office for returns occasionally, it's still a great time saver. Also Audible (the audio book service from Amazon)—I listen to a lot of books during my three-hour daily commute. It's amazing what you can learn just driving to work.
TN: My most motivating financial aid experience was…
PL: I can't pinpoint a single experience, but there was a point when I realized that the work we do really makes a difference in people's lives and that's when I was hooked! And now, being part of a community of people who are dedicated to service and the greater good keeps me going through the rough times.
TN: What NASFAA service/product is most helpful to you?
PL: Definitely Today's News, but I also enjoy the weekly "Off The Cuff" podcasts that I listen to on my commute or while traveling.
Watch Paula's address to the NASFAA membership at the 2019 NASFAA Conference in Orlando, FL at nasfaa.org/NASFAALeadership.
Leave your welcome messages, comments, and congratulations to Paula in the comments section below!
Publication Date: 7/22/2019