Service With a Smile

"Two semesters of working the front desk at Wichita State University’s recreation center shaped Lauren O’Donnell’s appreciation for the kind of stress full-time employees on campuses can feel. O’Donnell fielded questions, and quite a few lost-item inquiries, in person and over the phone as students and others checked in to use the facilities. Once, as a group insisted on reserving an already booked dance studio that day, she found herself trying to explain policies and practices to students who just didn’t seem to understand why their request couldn’t be met," Inside Higher Ed reports

... "In Justin Draeger’s experience as president and CEO of the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators, some refer to students as customers. 'That sort of vernacular really clashes with higher education,' he says, but 'higher ed could probably learn a few things from the private sector.' Complicating the service situation is that financial aid professionals serve as both student advocates and stewards of public funds. 'A lot of the ire and frustration students and families feel about federal rules are misdirected at financial aid administrators,' Draeger says."

"A spring NASFAA member survey found that half of financial aid offices operated with a 75 percent staffing level for 2019–20 and 2020–21. Nearly eight in 10 were concerned (at least slightly) about their ability to be administratively capable, and over half about their ability to adequately serve students."

"Autoreply messages can be a low-tech way to communicate about potential waits, yet only about one-third of Student Voice survey respondents say they’re aware of at least one office on campus using them. Instead of 'wait times may be more than usual' and pleading for empathy about being short-staffed, Draeger suggests offering specific estimates for processing requests: 'It’s closing the delta between expectations and reality.'"

"NASFAA is making inroads on standardizing 'soft skills that round out what it means to be a proficient aid administrator,' says Draeger. To earn a designation through the certified financial aid administrator program, individuals must develop their professional skills through a wide range of activities, which can include customer service skills. The association is currently developing a comprehensive core competency model to help guide all financial aid professionals in both hard and soft skills development, he adds. Also, he has never been to a NASFAA event 'where customer service is not offered somewhere on the agenda.'"

"In terms of institutional priorities, Draeger adds, meeting administrative requirements for federal, state and institutional aid is always going to be most important, with disbursement duties being the next focus. That leaves soft skills training next in line, but 'obviously the three are intertwined.'"

"Limited resources necessitate priority levels, but ignoring how staff members make students feel is 'penny-wise and pound-foolish,' Draeger says. 'It’s the soft skills that enroll students and keep students enrolled.'"

NASFAA's "Notable Headlines" section highlights media coverage of financial aid to help members stay up to date with the latest news. Articles included under the notable headlines section are not written by NASFAA, but rather by external sources. Inclusion in Today's News does not imply endorsement of the material or guarantee the accuracy of information presented.



Publication Date: 8/26/2022

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