Preparing for the Future: Financial Aid Administrators Convene for 2022 NASFAA National Conference

By Hugh T. Ferguson, NASFAA Senior Staff Reporter

Crack out those Federal Student Aid Handbooks, the NASFAA National Conference is back!

In kicking off NASFAA 2022, the first in-person national conference the association has had since 2019, members were able to re-engage with their colleagues to explore the varying ways in which they can succeed in an unpredictable environment that has pushed those in the profession to implement new skills.

"Every day, financial aid administrators provide access, open doors to opportunity, and help long-held dreams for our students come to fruition," said 2021-22 National Chair Brent Tener, director of student financial aid and scholarships at Vanderbilt University. "You have a direct impact on the trajectory of students' lives — a reality that has come into sharper focus over the past two years as financial aid administrators helped many struggling students and families find a way forward."

Attendees heard from best-selling author David Epstein during the opening session in Austin, Texas, who discussed his research that offered bold insight as to how professionals can best approach career development in complex fields.

In his discussion Epstein detailed how generalists are best primed to succeed in their given career due to their ability to balance a variety of skill sets needed to deal with ever-changing regulations.

While many experts expound the need to specialize and devote thousands of hours on deliberate practice, Epstein detailed some of the pitfalls for professionals.

The discussion underscored the importance in childhood development of using a sampling period, where many skills are explored. By delaying a specialization, be it athletics, the arts, or other professional aspirations, many elite performers began their careers with less structured activity.

For financial aid administrators, much of the profession falls into a generalist skill set where professionals need to react to complex, unpredictable tasks that are difficult to automate.

In the financial aid profession, generalists — not specialists — are primed to excel. 

Higher education professionals, Epstein said, need to think about development as a winding path that takes time.

"I don't think there is probably anyone on the campus that has as broad a view as financial aid," Epstein said, noting that during his year of higher education reporting he found aid administrators touched on nearly every aspect of higher education life.

On Sunday attendees were also able to partake in a pre-conference discussion on diversity and the varying forms it takes, as told by musical duo Diversity Matters, and first-time attendees got their feet wet during an introductory reception that allowed NASFAA members to network and introduce themselves to colleagues both new and familiar.

Follow along with all that's going on today on Facebook and Twitter using #NASFAA2022 and keep an eye on our 2022 Conference Summaries page for frequent updates throughout the conference.


Publication Date: 6/26/2022

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