Meet Brent Tener, NASFAA's 2021-22 National Chair!
Brent started his financial aid career at Wichita State University and currently serves as executive director of student financial aid and scholarships at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee.
Having accrued over 30 years of experience as a financial aid administrator, Brent has worked with financial aid professionals across the country while serving in varying capacities in state, regional, and national associations.
Brent has served on NASFAA's Board of Directors as the SASFAA regional representative, commission director, and representative-at-large. He is a past president of both the Tennessee Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (TASFAA) and the Southern Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (SASFAA), and was one of the main architects of Vanderbilt's progressive need-based financial aid program, named “Opportunity Vanderbilt.” He was honored with a NASFAA Regional Leadership Award in 2010 and the SASFAA Distinguished Service Award in 2013.
As he begins his tenure as 2021-22 NASFAA national chair, Brent took some time to discuss with Today's News his goals for the next year and what inspires him as a financial aid professional.
TN: What do you think is the biggest issue facing the federal aid programs right now?
BT: When we look at the enrollment declines, especially at the community college, as well as many of the four-year institutions — especially at community colleges, as well as many of the four-year regional institutions — that's a big concern. As a country we move forward with education. If we have students that are jumping out of the educational process, it’s really concerning to me. There are some schools that are stable in terms of their enrollment, but are seeing a decline in their FAFSA numbers.
TN: What are your top three goals for your tenure as national chair of NASFAA?
BT: The first is expanding on discussions that we have already had regarding succession planning, at the institutional level, within the schools in our offices, but also in our state, regional, and national financial aid associations. Second is to make our profession more inclusive and to ensure that people feel that they're really a part of what's going on. It is important not only for our colleagues to be included, but that they also have a sense of belonging.
And then third, and maybe most importantly, how can we, at the national level, continue to support both the financial aid community and the students that we serve as we're battling the pandemic and we’re transitioning to the new normal. We here at NASFAA continue to search for ways that we can continue to support our friends and colleagues.
TN: Who has been the biggest professional influence for you over the years, and why?
BT: I would definitely include all of the people that gave me a job in financial aid. I think of Larry Rector, who was the director of financial aid at Wichita State who gave me my first job in financial aid. Then David Mohning, and Larry Freeman, who hired me here at Vanderbilt. They’re probably the biggest influences because they were the ones that believed in me and opened doors for me.
There are so many other folks, too numerous to mention, that have influenced me not only in the day-to-day financial aid job, but also in my participation in our financial aid associations.
TN: If I were not working in financial aid, I would…
BT: I think being a high school football coach would be a cool job. Outside of that, I don't know. I have a great love for football and I just romanticize that.
TN: What’s on your summer reading list?
BT: We're working through the book, “The Privileged Poor” and how elite colleges are failing disadvantaged students. (Editor’s note: To learn more about this book, check out this book review written by NASFAA member and Director of Financial Aid at Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs David Sheridan.)
TN: What’s a new routine you’ve developed since the outbreak of COVID-19?
BT: So, for some reason, I've gotten hooked on large, unsweetened teas from McDonald's. I'll go through the McDonald's drive-thru and I can blame it on one of my sons, who kind of got me going on that.
I'm a recovering Diet Coke addict and I've been off of Diet Coke now for about two-and-a-half years so I drink a lot of tea. You can't beat a $1 large tea. Cheapest addiction you can have I think.
TN: My most motivating financial aid experience was…
BT: When I was at Wichita State there was a lady that had come into the aid office and had said that she had been driving by Wichita State day after day after day thinking, ‘I need to do this,’ and she just couldn't bring herself to take that first step in going to college because she just didn't know how and was full of self-doubt.
Finally she got up the courage to come onto campus, park the car, visit our folks in admissions, and then come over to see us in financial aid. We were able to talk with her and give her a path to say, ‘Well yeah, you can make this work.’ I'll never forget that. There are many things in life that are just about taking that first step..
TN: What NASFAA service/product is most helpful to you?
BT: AskRegs is just awesome, Today’s News is great as well, but when I am in trouble and I’ve got to find the answer, AskRegs is fabulous. Or I ask NASFAA Director of Policy Analysis Karen McCarthy, either one.
TN: What gadget or app saves you the most time?
BT: Without a doubt the Waze app for directions.
TN: What is the best professional advice you have been given?
BT: I think the demonstration sometimes referred to as the “Jar of Life” would qualify. It isn't necessarily professional advice, but I think it is applicable when we think about work-life balance. For me, my family, my faith and my career are the most important things in my life. Once those are in my jar, everything else can fit.
Leave your welcome messages, comments, and congratulations to Brent in the comments section below and be sure to check out Brent’s remarks during NASFAA’s annual conference.
Publication Date: 8/16/2021