After nearly 20 years working in financial aid, Loretta Jones was looking for ways to continue learning and diving deeper into the profession she called a vocation.
As quality control specialist at East Coast Polytechnic Institute (ECPI) University in Virginia, Jones had significant responsibilities in the aid office and also found herself training and passing down her knowledge to younger financial aid colleagues.
She began pursuing the FAAC® designation through NASFAA’s Certified Financial Aid Administrator® Program in 2019, shortly after the program’s inception, and was in the inaugural group of aid administrators to complete the certification program.
Jones now credits the process with helping her take the next step in her career. Since becoming an FAAC, Jones has been given more responsibility at ECPI and was recently promoted to her current position as director of financial assistance development.
For Jones, the ability to connect and grow alongside other aid administrators has proven to be an added benefit of earning the FAAC designation. She first started in financial aid at the age of 22 and, as Jones tells it, she was just looking for a job, not necessarily a career in financial aid.
But she found she loved the camaraderie, networking, and ability to always be learning new things that came with a career in financial aid. She first heard about the certification program at NASFAA’s Leadership & Legislative Conference & Expo in 2019 and knew the opportunity to continue to grow and develop sounded perfect to her.
The certification has been beneficial to Jones for several reasons, she said, as it’s served as a way for her to demonstrate her knowledge of financial aid and it helps foster a sense of community among aid professionals, such as at a conference or networking event.
Jones said the certification is something that is great to share when you meet someone new in the financial aid field.
“It lets that person immediately know that you have gone above and beyond what is required of you,” she said.
With all there is to learn in financial aid, Jones acknowledges it can be daunting. At times, she said both she and many others can find themselves hesitating to ask a question aloud for fear of judgment. “But when you build those closer relationships, it becomes a lot easier to go to other people for advice and help,” she said.
While attending NASFAA webinars and completing courses to earn recertification points came more naturally to Jones, she’s also been attending more conferences, joined her state association (VASFAA) and volunteered for VASFAA’s conference committee. She even led a training session at that conference in April.
“In trying to earn those recertification points, just attending webinars is not enough,” she said. “We have to do other things, so I’m always watching for opportunities to come that I could get involved in.”
In working toward recertification and attending conferences and events, Jones said becoming an FAAC helps her to build even stronger connections with colleagues she sees at those events regularly.
“I've known people in financial aid for many, many years, but the only time I would ever get to see them would be at a conference,” Jones added. “Now that I'm participating, I'm actually working with some of those people that I've known for years that I used to just see occasionally but now get to interact with once a week because we're on committees together.”
Publication Date: 2/10/2022