Don’t Blink By Sarah Bright

As a parent, the phrase “Don’t blink” is strongly advised. The beginning of parenthood can be a shock to the system… doctor visits, endless feedings and many diapers are just a few rituals that make time feel as if it comes to a standstill… and that’s just during year one.  “Will it ever end?” is a question you would ask yourself if you could find a moment among the chaos.

However, things change. Quickly.  You don’t know how or when, but soon that baby can stand and kick things (usually things they’re not supposed to) and say things (sometimes words they’re not supposed to say).  Then they start school, play sports, go on dates, and eventually fly the nest.  “That went fast,” you think to yourself, partially sad but mostly in awe.  You rolled with each change, the small ones and the enormous changes.  Moreover, you think back nostalgically, “How did I handle all that?”  Through no choice of yours, that child evolved and you had to change to meet those needs whether you were ready or not.  Accepting the inevitability of change is tough, especially after investing so much into it.

Similar advice might be shared with a new financial aid professional, but with one small tweak… rather than “Don’t blink”, it would be “Learn to blink a lot”.

Financial aid can be complex and unrelenting, with change always on the horizon – sometimes more challenging, sometimes less. Like parenting, one challenge is sure to end, but a new one is always around the corner.  Similarly, the better you are at adapting to those changes, the better chance you will have at succeeding as a financial aid professional.

I have worked with financial aid for 6 years. And just like my years as a parent, that time has flown by.  Because the field changes so frequently, at times I believe I am nowhere near adept.  Some days, I don’t feel like I can even begin to describe what all goes into working in financial aid.  And on many occasions I think, “Will I ever be an expert in this?”

Nevertheless, for now, I take a deep breath… blink… and change the many metaphorical “financial aid” diapers of the day. Because at least I have learned that tomorrow may be different, as change is unavoidable.

To end my blog with something fun… have you ever asked your kids what they think you do at work? Take a look at what my child wrote and what some our colleagues’ kids had to say:

Sarah Bright is MASFAP’s 2018 Newcomer Chair

A Soap Box Rant By Keri Gilbert

I love a good soap box rant. Of course, what I really mean is that I love to go on a good soap box rant. Want to know what the most recent topic my coworkers, husband, Mom, and cat have had to listen to? Verification selection rates. Ohhhhh don’t get me started! I remember when the selection rates started getting out of hand. I saw a few tweets, heard a few grumbles, and then when we all figured out what was going on, some mobilization. NASFAA’s Rapid Response Network went out with a call for data, data, data to present as evidence of increased rates. The issue was fixed, and rates were supposed to go down. But did that really happen? Depends on who you ask.

At Mizzou, we saw a verification selection rate of 63% between November 20th and December 15th. Sixty-three percent! That’s only 37 percentage points less than 100%. Isn’t that just crazy?! Once the algorithm was corrected, our rate dropped to 18% between December 18th and January 12th. Which is wonderful! But, it seems we are in the minority with seeing a drop that large, or even a drop at all. With verification rates around 30%, plus these weird spikes, administrative burden increases. Many of us are already told to do more with less, and just to add verification to the pile. David Sheridan, the Director of Financial Aid at the Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs in New York summed it up nicely in an e-mail correspondence from February when he said “[I] compared the alleged 30% verification requirement to the IRS, which is responsible for a lot more money than the Department of Ed is. The IRS audits approximately 1% of all tax filers, and the estimated loss to the US Treasury from tax fraud is over $200 billion – not million, billion – dollars a year. But heaven forbid someone fill out a FAFSA and leave out the $1,117 from boxes 12a through 12d, codes D, E, F, G, H or S from their W2. Gotta get to the bottom of that. So Financial Aid staff need to spend time sweating those details while students can’t figure out how much to borrow or how to repay their loans…and then we get criticized for that…which we don’t have time to help them with because we’re busy verifying”*. I think David likes a good soap box rant, too!

We all know verification can present a huge barrier to college access. While sometimes holding a student’s hand through verification is aggravating, and explaining how to get documents seems tedious, just try to remember the student you are helping may not be able to make it without your guidance.

I would encourage you to take a look at your office verification selection rates and see if the algorithm change made a difference on your campus. Take a look at the ranges I used above and see how it stacks up. Then maybe get on your soap box, start furiously writing letters to the Department of Education and your federal representatives (maybe under just your own name, not school, if they are going to in fact be furious), and always make sure to advocate for your students.

*Quoted with permission from David Sheridan

Keri Gilbert is MASFAP’s Legislative Co-Chair

MASFAP’s Who’s Making a Difference Scholarship By Alex Miller and Kayla Klein

MASFAP Scholarship Winner Faith Thompson from Tipton High School

Last year the Early Awareness Committee (EAC) was ecstatic to be able to offer a scholarship to a Missouri graduating Senior in May 2018. The MASFAP Who’s Making a Difference Scholarship submission requirements were to submit an entry form, write an essay (300 word maximum) describing a person in the student’s life who was inspiring them to fulfill their post-secondary education dreams, and submit a selfie of the two together. The scholarship can be used in the fall of 2018 at any Missouri institution for tuition, institutional fees, room, board, or books.

We were over the moon to receive over 300 entries! The EAC voted to pick the top five entries and we presented them to the membership at the 2017 conference. The members, attending the conference, were able to read the stories and submit a vote on their favorite story. After much consideration, we were able to offer two $1,000.00 scholarship and three $250.00 scholarships.

MASFAP Scholarship Winner Paige Newton from Smithton High School

Kayla and I wanted to do something big when we presented the two $1,000.00 scholarships to the winners. Thanks to Laura and Tim Steinbeck, we were able to get some BIG checks printed to surprise the students at their schools. We organized with the high school counselors to come to the school to bring the check and the balloons (I know what you are thinking; totally clearing house, right!?).

When driving to deliver the first check we did not know what to expect and were a little nervous. However, I can tell you neither of us expected to cry… but we did and so did everyone else in the office. The student was so thankful and surprised, it really touched EVERYONE’s heart (even the principal that was dressed up for ugly sweatshirt day). We could not wait to deliver the second check.

Unfortunately, on the second check delivery, Kayla could not join me. Nevertheless, we were so excited to be doing it again! This time I was not nervous, I was just anxious to see how the student reacted since her story had touched my heart the most out of all the stories we read. I met with the Superintendent, Principal, High School Counselor, and the student’s aunt. We all waited anxiously for the student to come down the hall and see me standing there with this BIG check and balloons. It did not take long for something to get in my eye after seeing her reaction… thank goodness for waterproof mascara!

Kayla and I are so thankful for this opportunity and we wish we could deliver more checks. However, we could not have done it without this awesome organization. THANK YOU MASFAP for allowing us to do what we love and allow us to keep spreading the LOVE across the state!

Alex Miller is MASFAP’s 2018 Vice President and Program Chair, and she was the 2017 Early Awareness Chair

Kayla Klein is the 2018 Early Awareness Chair

Volunteering for a MASFAP Committee By Kerry Hallahan

All my life I have loved to volunteer! As a young child in elementary school, it began with agreeing to help my teacher. Then in high school when I could drive, my best friend and I volunteered for ‘Meals on Wheels.’ Later in my college days, I volunteered to be a side walker for Therapeutic Horsemanship. As I became a mother, I volunteered as a room parent, a Girl Scout Leader/Cookie mom and an Advancement Coordinator for Boy Scouts. Heck! I was even a PSR teacher for second graders. My family has volunteered together at the Emmaus Homes. As a professional, when I think about volunteering the first thing that comes to mind is MASFAP. I have volunteered to serve on committees and to serve on the Executive Board for MASFAP. I even volunteered to run as MASFAP President… and here I am! Although my involvement and extent of volunteerism has progressed over the years, all of these have many things in common. They all have made me feel more fulfilled, enabled me to meet new people, helped me grow as a person and grow my network of colleagues to call on for thoughts and opinions – I have learned so much from others through volunteering!

Volunteering to be on a committee for MASFAP is like any other activities you have volunteered for in your life, and I know you will not regret it! You will collaborate with like-minded people, feel like you belong (which makes you feel good), probably learn something new and definitely expand your financial aid circle of friends! Of course all of this happens through giving, because when you give of your time and talent, there is nothing greater! Together we accomplish so much.

So….MASFAP….I am calling on you! Please get engaged and get involved on a MASFAP committee – the Early Awareness and Program committees are always looking for members like you… the Technology committee is looking for members who will assist with AV at the conference…choose a larger committee or one that you would like to know more about… but I hope you will take the time to volunteer for one. Now, as the New Year has begun, is the perfect time to take the next step and volunteer.

To volunteer: Go to www.masfap.org, click on Member Services, and then Volunteer! You will have use your MASFAP login.

You can view a general list of committees and the committee descriptions: https://www.masfap.org/docs/forms/comm_descript.html

The 2018 Executive Board looks forward to collaborating with you!
Kerry Hallahan
MASFAP President