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Prepare your staff to survive the financial aid wilderness!

“Don’t just survive, thrive in the financial aid wilderness!”

When:  November 6th – 8th Where:  Great Wolf Lodge, Grapevine, TX

Attention all Financial Aid Directors, V.P.’s and everyone else tasked with managing precious training and travel budgets! If you have new financial aid staff and are not planning to send them to SWASFAA Boot Camp, I would like to offer a few things to consider.

What’s worse than training your workers and losing them? Not training them and keeping them.” Zig Ziglar, success speaker

If your office experiences a lot of turnover in newly hired staff, it can seem risky to invest in off-site training for a new team member before you know if they are in it for the long haul. But, perhaps investing in robust training early on could prevent some of that turnover. A well-trained employee is likely a happier and more effective employee, because they have the tools they need to be successful. Not investing in professional development for new staff sends a message that their role isn’t important enough to warrant that kind of investment. I personally can’t think of any role in the financial aid office that is “unimportant”.

Another benefit of investing in robust training for new staff is realized when vacancies occur in higher level positions. If you have been investing in training for your staff since they were first hired, you will have a greater pool of capable and prepared candidates to move in those vacant positions. They will have a solid financial aid knowledge that can transfer in to many new roles without requiring additional time to catch up on training and acquire skills.

Maybe you have an internal training program and struggle to justify the additional expenditure to send new staff to a training like SWASFAA Boot Camp. In my experience, new staff who complete our internal training program and then attend SWASFAA Boot Camp find their newfound financial aid knowledge truly solidified in a way they would not experience if they were trained within our office alone. Exposure to colleagues from other schools who share all of the various methods and practices with which we comply with the same regulations and accomplish the same goals is truly priceless. Trainings like SWASFAA Boot Camp allow financial aid professionals to see the “big picture” and understand the “why” behind the “how”.

The Boot Camp committee is made up of seasoned financial aid professionals, all of whom will have earned NASFAA credentials in the subjects they are presenting. We are excited to welcome your new staff in to the world of financial aid and equip them for a long and successful career!

Early bird registration for SWASFAA Boot Camp ends October 25th. Visit the SWASFAA Conference site for more details. https://swasfaa.org/docs/conferences/site/index.html


Professional Development – A Way to Navigate Through the Financial Aid Wilderness

Sent on behalf of Connie Riley, Boot Camp Committee Member

It is no secret Financial Aid professionals continuously have to adapt to changes. Federal, State, and Institutional policy changes always trickle down to the Financial Aid Office. It seems we learn one regulation one day, only to have it become obsolete the next. Combined with the everyday stresses of phone calls from parents and students, receiving verification documents, and everyday interruptions, we can feel like we are wandering in the wilderness.

Professional Development is imperative for Financial Aid Professionals. Training opportunities, like the ones provided at the SWASFAA Boot Camp and Conference can provide an excellent service to your office. There are four reasons why it is so important to make time for professional development:

  1. Increase knowledge base – Attending programs where you learn something helps you to develop in your area of expertise. This can not only help your office; it can help your school.
  2. Meet new people – Opportunities to collaborate with others and obtain some ideas for best practices can help you. When you attend professional development trainings, there will be a lot of people you do not know yet. NETWORK! Meet others who deal with the same issues, and see what opportunities are available for you to expand upon.
  3. Expand your rolodex – Developing new connections and developing relationships with others in your field can be helpful if you run into a situation for which you feel you need to get a second opinion.
  4. Develop new resources- In addition to what you learn from the program content, you can learn even more from the other people in attendance. You can get advice from others who have “been there, done that.” Attending professional development programs are a great way to delve into the knowledge base of others and their areas of expertise.

Last year, I attended the SWASFAA Conference in Oklahoma. I attended several different sessions, but one in particular stands out. The speaker asked for us to talk about best practices in dealing with loan counseling. I came away with a couple of ideas for our office, and we have since implemented them. For me, this made the trip worth the time it took away from my office.

Don’t get lost in the wilderness of Financial Aid. Take this great opportunity of Professional Development offered at the SWASFAA Boot Camp and Conference. You will have the ability to meet colleagues from different states, network, learn something, and share what you already know with others. We look forward to seeing you in Grapevine.

Connie Riley
Boot Camp Committee Member
Financial Aid Analyst
Southern Arkansas University Tech

The Great Wolf in You!

Sent on behalf of Harold Whitis, Conference Chair

So, you see the 2017 SWASFAA Conference theme of “The Great Wolf in You” and then you see the logo!  Those wolf eyes are scary looking, huh?  Well, let me talk to you about the theme a little.  I personally think that choosing the theme is one of the hardest things to do when you are on a conference committee.  It drives everything about the conference from activities to food to advertising, etc.  It has to be a little catchy but not too corny.  We chose “The Great Wolf in You” for a couple of reasons, the obvious of which is the location.  The Great Wolf Lodge!  When you check in, believe me, you won’t be scared.  Everyone gets to wear a set of wolf ears.  Nothing says “I’m not scary” like a set of wolf ears!

But back to the theme.  Here are some “wolf facts” that are symbolic of what student financial aid is all about and what led us to this theme.

  • A wolf is a symbol of guardianship, ritual, loyalty, and spirit. A wolf has the ability to make quick and firm emotional attachments, and often needs to trust their own instincts.  Thus they teach us to do the same, to trust our hearts and minds, and have control over our own lives.
    • As financial aid administrators we are guardians of federal, state and institutional resources. We are loyal to the cause and often have to trust our instincts, hearts and minds to guide our students as they strive to control their own lives.
  • Wolves are very social animals. They live and hunt together in groups called packs, which is another name for a family of wolves.
    • FAAs are social! We come together to learn and become experts in our craft but also to enjoy the company of our peers and student financial aid family.
  • For the most part, they mate for life although some males may bond to different females in different years, destroying the long-held “mate for life” myth.
    • Enough said….
  • Younger wolves do not overthrow the “alpha” male in the pack. They are dispersed from their parent’s packs, pair off with other dispersed wolves and start their own pack.
    • We train our staff to go out and have blossoming careers and enjoy watching them do so. The Sir Richard Branson quote (paraphrased) goes:  “We train them so well they can leave but treat them so well they don’t want to.”  I take pride in the fact that many of those I have hired went on to have successful, if not extraordinary careers.
  • There are only about 200,000 wolves in the world with about 5,000 in the lower 48 and 7,000 to 11,000 in Alaska.
    • Checking the NASFAA website it says they have about 20,000 financial assistance professionals in their membership. This is close to the 16,000 wolves in the lower 48 but who can get an accurate count anyway.

In my next installment I’ll give you some more interesting “wolf facts”.  If you haven’t registered for the conference yet, you still have time!  If you want to present, be sure to complete a “Proposal Submission” that can be found on the front page of the SWASFAA website.

We look forward to seeing you in Grapevine!

The SWASFAA Fall Conference Committee

Let’s go camping!! Boot Camp 2017

Don’t just survive, thrive in the financial aid wilderness!

 When:  November 6th – 8th
Where:  Great Wolf Lodge, Grapevine, TX

Greetings!  Way back in 2011 my director thought it would be a great idea to send me to the New Aid Officers Workshop that TASFAA offered.  I had been out of the financial aid world for a while and was persuaded back (it’s like you can try to leave, but you never really do).  So here I am, a guy from Oklahoma in a room full of folks from Texas.  I must say, it was one of the best experiences I have ever had in my professional career.  From that workshop, not only did I get a great refresher, but I made a lot of contacts with other financial aid colleagues and have made life-long friends. 

Now you will have the opportunity to experience what I did by attending the SWASFAA BOOT CAMP.  During this three day training you will have the opportunity to network and meet colleagues from the great SWASFAA region, refresh your financial aid knowledge, learn new information, and share what you know. 

Being involved in SWASFAA has really helped me professionally.  Like I stated earlier, I have made great contacts with others in our profession and have really developed strong, life-long friendships.  It is really great to be able to pick up the phone or send an email to someone with a question or issue and know that you are going to get an educated response.  I hope that you will be able to join us November 6th – 8th at the Great Wolf Lodge for this incredible professional development opportunity. 

 Let’s get packing and get ready to go camping!  Hope to see you all soon!

Jason R Marrujo, M.S.
Boot Camp Committee Member
Manager, Student Financial Aid and Scholarships
Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences
College of Osteopathic Medicine


Boot Camp 2017- Are you ready for the wilderness?


Don’t just survive, thrive in the financial aid wilderness!

When: November 6th-8th
Where: Great Wolf Lodge, Grapevine, TX

Boot Camp will be an exciting adventure this year as we learn the basics of financial aid. New hires will not only feel equipped to survive the vast amount information but will also learn how to thrive in the face of federal regulation changes. The three day training will provide a foundation in financial aid as well as the added components of professional development, the chance to network across our great region, and the opportunity to NASFAA credential in 10 financial aid topics! We have dedicated trainers ready to make this the best training yet.

I hope you will join us for this wonderful experience. More information including the agenda, hotel, and registration will be provided soon. An email will be sent out to the listserv once registration is live.

Should you have any questions regarding Boot Camp, please contact me at Sarah.Webb@utsa.edu or 210-458-7295.


Sarah Webb
SWASFAA Boot Camp Chair 2017
The University of Texas at San Antonio