MVP Amy Hager, FAAC®

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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]

Amy Hager

MVP Amy Hager, FAAC®
Director of Financial Aid
Moberly Area Community College

Meet Amy Hager, FAAC®, director of financial aid at Moberly Area Community College — an institution she’s served since 1997. 

Amy got her start as a student, working in Missouri Valley College’s financial aid office as a Federal Work-Study student. From there, Amy has served 33 years in the financial aid profession, working at the aid offices of the Kansas City University, Sanford-Brown College, and Moberly Area Community College. 

During challenging times, Amy said she couldn’t function without the help of her staff and colleagues, especially with the implementation of FAFSA simplification this year.

“The last year has been tough and everyone in my department is really stepping up,” Amy said. “Everybody's trying their best to be educated about all the things associated with implementing FAFSA simplification.”

Beyond her work at institutions, Amy has also volunteered for her state, regional, national associations. That includes serving as the president, treasurer, and chair of the leadership development committee at the Missouri Association of Student Financial Aid Personnel (MASFAP). 

She also held various roles at the Midwest Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (MASFAA), such as the Missouri state delegate and a conference presenter, and served on NASFAA’s advocacy network and pipeline, and was a volunteer on NASFAA’s 2024 Conference Task Force.

Learn more about Amy, her interests, and her career path in the Q&A below!

How did you get your start in financial aid?

Probably like a lot of people do, I started as a work-study student in the financial aid office and student affairs division when I was in college. I really loved working in higher education and I had a great college experience. I knew I wanted to work in higher ed when I got out, so I started looking for jobs and landed one in a financial aid office. All aspects of the job got in my blood, and I love it. 

What do you find the most rewarding and fulfilling about your work?

I think the natural answer is serving students and seeing their dreams become a reality, knowing that education is accessible and affordable. But I also really am rewarded and fulfilled with my work with my team and my colleagues at my institution. I enjoy just seeing my staff come together and really apply their knowledge and their resilience to their work and seeing them find satisfaction in that. In addition to the fulfilling work that we do, I enjoy the advocacy work that I get to participate in, and the time that my institution allows me to volunteer in our professional associations.

If you could change one thing about financial aid, what would it be?

I feel like it's always been challenging, yet rewarding. I think that is why so many people stay in it and make it a lifelong career. Recently, I think there have been a lot of things that almost everybody that works in the profession would like to change. FAFSA simplification has been the most challenging  work of my 33 years. I think communication and better partnerships with the Department of Education and our legislators may have helped with a smoother transition and implementation plan.

We all want the same things. We all want what's best for our students. We want more money for students. We want more simplified processes for our students. But I think that one thing we could change to make things better is probably better communication. That could have helped with a better FAFSA rollout.

What is the best thing that's happened to you recently?

I recently passed my Certified Financial Aid Administrator® Knowledge Exam and earned my FAAC designation . I originally signed up to take the test in 2020 right before COVID hit, but postponed it for multiple reasons. I am proud of myself for finally doing it and passing it. Also to be nominated for the NASFAA MVP is very humbling and I'm very honored to be among this group of esteemed colleagues that have done this before. 

Personally, I just recently traveled to a couple of national parks. I went rock climbing and mountain climbing, and it was very breathtaking and exhilarating. I'm proud that I was able to do those things. 

What's something you wish all higher ed folks knew about financial aid?

I am very fortunate at my institution, because my administration generally supports and understands the complexities of what we do in financial aid. Just this morning, at our financial aid staff meeting, our president came in to commend our staff on their hard work. He expressed his understanding of the complexities of what we do, and told the entire staff how much they are valued. That was just an incredible sign of the support that we have from our administration.

With that said, I wish others knew how much people who work in financial aid really care about students. I wish they understood how tough it is to demonstrate that sometimes, because we enforce regulations and policies. And I wish they understood that we're very compassionate, but we're also rule-followers and are held accountable for the financial risk of our institution. We're balancing very tough jobs. I wish more folks understood that compliance is an institutional responsibility.

Do you have any recommendations for people just getting started in the field?

It's important to attend conferences and every professional development opportunity that's afforded to a new professional. I know that's not always possible at some institutions. But they should take any opportunity they have to meet new people. I highly recommend networking, meeting new people, and finding a mentor or mentors. It is incredibly powerful to help people launch into successful careers. Making those connections provides us a base of people and a support system as we move forward.

For somebody just getting started, I also recommend people to be patient with themselves. Financial aid is so broad. There's so much information to consume, and you don't have to know it all at the same time. But I think the strength that some of our best professionals have is to know where to find the answers. Be humble. Know that you're not going to know it all the time and engage in problem solving strategies will help you be successful.

Tell us about your institution. What are some unique aspects of working at Moberly Area Community College?

As all community colleges, we're open-door access to our students. If you have a high school diploma, you can come in and get an education. I'm very proud of that. Access and affordability are top of mind at our institution, and that's a mission that I have been able to support for over 25 years here. 

We have unique programs, such as one called “UCAN2” It's our local college awareness network and we invite all middle school students in our area to come to our campus. We provide them with different activities, and allow them to meet people in certain professions that they are interested in, or attend different workshops on campus. And the big event that we do is similar to the “Reality Store and Game of Life.” The concept of it is finding an occupation and doing a budget activity. 

Something else unique with all community colleges in the state of Missouri is the Missouri A+ Scholarship. The scholarship covers tuition and fees for students that attend a community college in our state to complete their first degree program. Federal student aid is applied first, but the scholarship will pick up the balance on their tuition and fees after federal grants are applied. It serves thousands of students every year. That's been a great program to support students in our state and in our institution. 

What's on your bucket list?

Ultimately, I would love to travel to Europe, but that probably won't happen for a few years until after I retire. For now, my goal is to visit more national parks and enjoy the natural beauty of our country. I want to learn more about the history of those national heritage areas, explore more trails, hike, and do things to challenge myself while supporting our national parks.

What is a goal you've set for yourself for this year?

This year, other than maintaining a positive attitude and successfully training my staff into all the new FAFSA simplification changes, I would like to complete the transition of my policies and procedures into the NASFAA P&P Builder

What's something you couldn't function without?

My staff and my colleagues! I am surrounded with very smart, talented, and resilient individuals. I seriously could not live without them. They support students. They support our college. And they almost all of the time have a positive attitude. And that is something that I just am so fortunate to have around me

I listened to Justin's webinar earlier this week and he made a comment about leadership as not being in charge, but taking care of those around us. This is something I sincerely strive to do every day — to take care of my staff, because I don't know how we could function without these incredible people.

 

Publication Date: 3/20/2024


Jason C | 3/20/2024 11:27:16 AM

Congrats Amy! You have always been a great resource for me and a familiar face I always look forward to reconnecting with.

Alice B | 3/20/2024 11:0:46 AM

Congratulations, Amy! I first met you at the Leadership Symposium a couple of years ago. Still very new in my position, you were very kind, helpful and gracious to me in answering my questions as I navigated a new career!

Charles M | 3/20/2024 9:40:56 AM

Way to go Amy!! You're a great mentor for so many in our industry. Congrats on conquering the rock climbing feat!

Tony L | 3/20/2024 9:22:28 AM

Congratulations Amy! You're a rock star, and MASFAP certainly appreciates all you have done for it over the years. You have groomed so many future leaders.

Lori V | 3/20/2024 9:22:15 AM

Congratulations, Amy!

Sara B | 3/20/2024 9:12:15 AM

MVP Amy! This is so amazing! Well done Amy!

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