updated 1.27.19

President's Update

Index of Updates

March 2009

Brad Hardison
2009 CCCSFAAA President

Student Oriented Decision Making in Financial Aid

Spring semester and 2009 brought much uncertainty to our lives. This is not something unfamiliar to our profession in financial aid. However, the economy and the state budget have undoubtedly created some stress at our colleges. I, for one, want to thank you for all the work that you do on a daily basis to help students.

While we strive to continue to serve more students and families experiencing financial difficulties, I try to reflect what is truly important. I think back to what Past President Kris Shear said about looking at our processes and procedures. As I set up 2009-2010, I try to use new technology to serve more students with existing staff. That could be something as simple as sending an email to students in place of a paper letter informing him/her what needs to be turned in to complete his/her file. Of course, that has its own limitations and issues. We need to remember to always have alternative ways to serve our students who do not have technology or the skills to use it.

In addition, I am challenged to look at removing roadblocks resulting from our college specific procedures. We know we have more and more items we need to check that are mandated by state or federal regulations. Do we have the luxury these days to create additional steps for students that may have minimal perceived benefits? Isn't this a good time to look at what we do and figure out if we should still be doing it?

These economic times have reminded me why our profession is so important. Our work allows students to attend college and pursue their goals and aspirations with some financial assistance. We know that is a challenge as our funding struggles to keep pace with rising costs. As more families are losing their jobs and the number of unemployed rises, we need to remind ourselves that we need to be there for those families as well. In many cases, these may not be families that we have traditionally served. As I always say to others at my college, I am there to serve the student with the zero EFC as well as the family who only qualifies for an unsubsidized loan. Both have their own unique needs.

In the short term, we are not expecting more funding to hire additional staff. I would not expect that to be a reality for some time. Thus, we need to always keep reinventing ourselves. How do our offices continue to serve students effectively with limited resources? I don't like the statement "to work smarter not harder." Instead, I believe in the notion of determining the rationale for everything we do in our offices and inviting others to challenge us on why we do it that way. I encourage you to use the college financial aid community throughout the state to vent ideas as you go through this process. The CCCSFAAA list serve is a great vehicle for that. Staff at any level should feel empowered to be part of this ongoing discussion and I encourage financial aid directors to open up this dialogue.

How can CCCSFAAA help in this process of confronting our notion of how we should do it? A student centered approach to financial aid is what I believe CCCSFAAA has been and continues to be about.

As our State Issues Committee, under the leadership of President Elect Jacque Bradley, discusses Cal Grant decentralization, the competitive Cal Grant program or other proposed program modifications, our discussions often circulate around how might the proposed change helps or hinders community college students. As I speak before the California Student Aid Commission or with other legislative staff or members, I try my best to represent the needs of our community college students especially with respect to financial aid issues. In the back of my mind, the students are my compass.

Our spring trainings, which I encourage you to attend, will focus on the changes we need to be aware of as a result of the many program modifications and new reporting requirements resulting from new federal legislation. Kris Shear, CCCSFAAA Past President, and her group are planning what I know will be an informative and helpful training which again will have an underlying theme of how we can serve our community college financial aid students better.

I know a focus of myself and board this year is try to involve the membership more in the organization. I encourage you to contact me if you have ideas or wish to get involved in any of our efforts. I and other members of the board serve the association because we love the work and the people we get to work with. We believe in higher education and the opportunities that financial aid affords students without the financial resources to attend college otherwise. We are student centered.

I invite you to join me in remembering that the student should be foremost in our mind as we make decisions on a daily basis. That could be a decision on how to complete verification on a file to determining your loan process. With that as our guiding principle, we will tend to make the best decisions while at the same time serving an every growing population that needs our services and assistance.

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