MVP: Most Valuable Professional is an occasional series that features a brief Q&A with a different NASFAA member. Do you know a financial aid colleague with something interesting to say? Send the names of potential future MVPs and a short note about why you're nominating them to [email protected].
Charles R. Mayfield Jr., FAAC®
Director of Financial Assistance
Northwest Missouri State University
Meet Charles R. Mayfield Jr., FAAC®. Charles got his start in financial aid shortly after wrapping up his undergraduate program at Missouri Valley College with a stint in student affairs at Lindenwood University that quickly opened the door to the world of financial aid.
“When I was in graduate school [at Lindenwood University], I worked in student affairs,” Charles said. “I had one year in grad school under my belt and I finished the second year of grad school while I was the financial aid person juggling both of those things for that first year.”
For Charles, the ability to multitask was paramount during his entry into the profession and the unique onboarding process made that first summer fly by.
“That first summer was lots and lots of learning. We probably learned things much more quickly than we would have in a more traditional setting,” Charles said. “Not a summer that any of us probably want to repeat. We learned so much that summer because it was just a trial-by-fire kind of concept.”
Now as a director of financial aid, well versed in the student aid handbook, Charles takes pride in Northwest Missouri State University’s investment in financial aid with their tuition promise (Northwest Promise) program.
“It covers all remaining tuition and student fees that aren't covered by other federal, state, and institutional scholarships,” Charles said. “Promise programs are growing in popularity. Ours has existed, it's taken on a couple of different forms over the years, but our program has been in existence since 2002.”
Charles has been active in his volunteer work and has served as a member of NASFAA’s Policy Rapid Response Network Task Force, the research committee, as well as a negotiated rulemaking volunteer.
Learn more about Charles, his interests, and his career path in the Q&A below!
How did you get your start in financial aid?
Like so many others I sort of fell into it. I finished my undergraduate degree and was going to start graduate school and I worked for a year in student affairs as a part of that process. I was responsible for the student check-in. I worked at a small private school at the time and the student check-in process was visiting each office, department by department, and feedback from that was really well organized. Then a job came open in the financial aid office and [they] asked if I was interested.
The only thing I knew at the time was that I had financial aid as a student and so I started reading the Federal Student Aid handbook. That's kind of a strange thing I guess, but just trying to learn, what does this entail? What exactly does this mean if I accept this kind of job? I started that summer and I haven't looked back since.
What do you find the most rewarding and fulfilling about your work?
A couple of things come to mind. In my career, I've worked at a small private school, I worked at a really large public school with over 50,000 students, and now work at a medium-sized public school. So for me, the rewarding part is to find the right fit. Just like for students, our institution is a really good fit for certain students, but there's no school in the country that's the perfect fit for every student, and as an employee and an employer, that relationship is a lot the same.
Once you're in financial aid, once you find that fit that kind of matches your interest and your professional desires, things just seem to work really well. I really enjoyed working at the small private school. I really enjoyed working at the large public school. Right now a medium-sized public environment has a good balance for me as an aid director and leading the office and setting the vision. I'm also still able to interact with students on a fairly regular basis and so I really enjoy that.
If you could change one thing about financial aid, what would it be?
If I could only change one thing it would be the loan repayment system. If loan repayment was structured so that there was just a repayment plan, and it was income-based, where loan repayments were withheld from the paycheck, much like federal taxes or FICA. So a certain percentage of a person's income could be withheld, a reasonable percentage. If somebody had a low income, that withholding amount would be less, if they had a higher income the withholding amount would be higher, and you could probably eliminate a lot of the forgiveness programs through that kind of model.
When I think about the big picture, we just have a lot of repayment plans and this is really confusing for students. Why do we need that many?
What's something you wish all higher ed folks knew about financial aid?
The concept I think of is the understanding that in some cases, we're an optional service. We know there are some students who enroll and pay for college and they don't have a need or interest in visiting the financial aid office. But we're always kind of there in the background and our goal is when that student raises their hand when they say, ‘Hey, I need some help,’ our goal is to go from zero to 100 as quickly as we possibly can, to be able to help them, and do it in the most efficient way we possibly can.
In theory, it's possible for a student to be enrolled in college for four years, receive financial aid for all four years, walk across the graduation stage and they may not know where the financial aid office is located on campus. That's not necessarily a bad thing, that means things work. That means they looked at the information we sent them and they took action when we asked them to. For those that know where the office is, and need to visit on a regular basis there's also nothing wrong with that either. We're here to help those students and not all students are going to need the same level of assistance and so we help as much as needed. That's kind of the equity mindset.
Do you have any recommendations for people just getting started in the field?
Connections — the people in the industry are willing to essentially drop everything to help you. Give you the tools, give you the resources, give you the knowledge that you need to be successful. There are a few people in my professional network that were those. They served in that capacity for me in my first few years and I've stayed really well connected with them over time.
Making those industry connections is really, really helpful because there's a willingness to share that I don't think you find in other industries. I'm at the point in my career where I try to be that person for others. I try to make sure to pay it forward.
What's something you couldn't function without?
I was just in a meeting the other day where we introduced ourselves to the state financial aid conference planning committee for our state association. We did introductions and we shared what food we couldn't live without, so that’s what I am thinking about, I shared that I didn't know that I could live without pasta. I’m Italian, my grandmother and her family came over from Italy and landed in Ellis Island in 1914. So I've got that Italian heritage and the love for pasta as part of that.
What's on your bucket list, or any upcoming travel plans?
I've done some triathlons over the years, so I'd like to do the Ironman distance triathlon.
As far as looking forward to, and travel-related things, I registered to go to the NASFAA National Conference and I'm excited to go to San Diego. I haven't been there and I want to make time to go to the zoo. I've been to the Omaha zoo several times and I know that the Omaha zoo and the San Diego zoo kind of compete for who's nationally number one.
What's helped you the most in getting through the past year?
I like to do triathlons and those kinds of things. I tore my ACL last spring and had knee surgery. I actually had to have a series of two knee surgeries, one in July and one in November. So I'm still kind of recovering from that. Getting back in the physical activity swing of things has been sort of a to do item for me over the course of this last year. Our family likes to go on vacations to Colorado once a year to go snow skiing. So to get back to doing things like that has been something personally that I've sort of had on my list of goals.
What's the best thing that has happened to you recently?
From a professional perspective I was nominated to be on the ballot to run for president of MASFAA, the Midwest Financial Aid Association, and so that's been an exciting thing. Just being nominated and being selected to be on the ballot to run for president of a regional association is kind of a cool thing when I think about it as far as accomplishments go.
Publication Date: 3/23/2023
Martha D | 4/10/2023 1:40:58 PM
Congratulations! from Cuesta College, in California!
Aesha E | 3/23/2023 1:0:20 PM
Hey Buddy, we miss you in Illinois! Love seeing good things happen for you.
Jason C | 3/23/2023 10:15:37 AM
I know Buddy as a fellow Bob Berger Award winner...hope you are well my friend.
Manda R | 3/23/2023 9:46:18 AM
Couldn't agree more with these comments - Buddy is more than well-deserving of receiving MVP! Thank you for all you do for our profession and students, Buddy. We are super lucky and grateful to have you here in Missouri. I'll be interested to hear which zoo takes the win for you... have fun in San Diego!
Melissa M | 3/23/2023 9:29:30 AM
Lori V | 3/23/2023 8:40:47 AM
Marvin S | 3/23/2023 8:35:10 AM
Buddy is such a thoughtful leader within our profession, a definite MVP! Hope to see you in San Diego my friend! Great read!
Kim J | 3/23/2023 8:27:41 AM
I met and served with Buddy as a negotiated rule-maker back in 2009 and noticed his humble spirit and his desire to serve. Very thankful we have colleagues like him that serve in our noble profession.
Anna S | 3/23/2023 8:19:21 AM
I've been privileged to be there from the start of Buddy's first days in MASFAP. Thanks for adding so much to the experience of students & the profession.
Craig S | 3/23/2023 8:13:34 AM
Buddy is definitely an MVP in my book. Thanks for all that you do for your students, the profession and for MASFAA!
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