Come Together Right Now!

In the ever changing world of Financial Aid, we look to each other to help wade through the mud and the muck.  SWASFAA is here to give you an outlet to network, training, and best practices.  So, what does SWASFAA have for me?  That is a great question.  This year we have some very exciting things to talk about.  The political climate is unsure.  The Department is uneasy as to what happens next.  We are faced with many uncertainties.  So, what do we do…. “Come together right now!”

Please join us this year for training…We have webinars that will be throughout the year with best practices.  We have Mid-Level training with NASFAA credentials.  We have Boot Camp for beginners.  We have Leadership training with more NASFAA credentials.  We have conference at Great Wolf Lodge in Grapeville TX (DFW area)

Renew or Join with SWASFAA membership on our website.  It is as easy as 123 or ABC.


We are looking forward to a great year at SWASFAA.

Low-Income Students Can Miss Out on Opportunities

When perception equals reality, low-income students can miss out on opportunities
By Memory Keeler – Student Connections, a USA Funds company

Over the past few months, I’ve been speaking with many colleagues about the nonacademic barriers to student success, and I often reference the 2016 FAFSA completion data. Of particular interest is the fact that the national FAFSA completion rate for high school seniors fell from 40.9 percent to 39.6 percent and that only five states – Oregon, West Virginia, Utah, North Carolina and Texas saw an increase in completion.

Low-income students’ misconceptions about financial aid
In October 2016, the National College Access Network (NCAN) released a report that examined the mindset of low-income students about their financial aid eligibility. It identifies some of the reasons that rate may be low, particularly for this population of students. The report begins by noting a 2011-12 National Postsecondary Student Aid Survey. The survey asked students to indicate why they hadn’t applied for aid, and 44.7 percent said it was because they did not believe they were eligible. But what is this belief based on?

The report goes on to explore current attitudes and behaviors toward financial aid among low-income students. It concludes that the belief that they are ineligible for aid often masks a troubling reality: they do not know whether or not they are eligible. These students are less likely to pursue aid opportunities. Because these findings have major implications for students and schools, they should help schools shape outreach strategies.

Getting resources to the students who need them
This is confirmed elsewhere in the study, where data show that, despite an abundance of information about student aid, the knowledge is not reaching the students who most need it. For example, 64 percent of the students who did not apply for aid reported they had no information about aid or had mistaken notions about it (for example, believing food stamps were a type of financial aid). Think about that: More than half of those who don’t apply for aid don’t understand what it is. Whether or not they are eligible becomes unfortunately irrelevant until we address that knowledge gap.

Further findings in the report identified a stark contrast in awareness of important issues between students who apply for aid and those who don’t. For example, 55 percent of students who didn’t apply believed that grants must be repaid, while only 12 percent of those who did apply held that belief. 32 percent of students who didn’t apply believed government loans were the same as private loans, whereas only 13 percent of students who applied believed that.

But what I found most telling among these statistics relates to this statement: “There are plenty of people I can ask about financial aid at my school.” 73 percent of students who applied for aid agreed with it, compared to only 34 percent of those who did not pursue aid. This is a staggering split between the two groups, and it underscores the importance of institutions raising awareness about financial literacy and other student engagement resources.

Although the sample size was small, this study does shed some light on why students may feel they are not eligible and do not apply. Particularly with the low national completion rate for all students, we need to focus more on getting the message out to those who need it. Students feel overwhelmed about the process to the point they are not connecting with the information that is out there. Institutions can address this with thoughtful engagement with students throughout the matriculation process and through college completion.

Mid-Level Workshop Provides 2 Credential Opportunities

Hello SWASFAA friends

There is a coolness in the air, along with the smell pumpkin spice everything, and sweaty athletes in our offices, I think that means it is officially Fall. What else comes with fall? That’s right, the best association conference in the country!

SWASFAA 2016 is just around the corner and I can’t wait to spend the better part of a week in beautiful Oklahoma City with all of my SWASFAA friends. I know the conference is coming together nicely, and the boot-camp trainers are working hard to impart their knowledge on our new folks, but what about the more seasoned financial aid folks? Well, that’s where the mid-level workshop comes in! We have a busy Wednesday morning planned this year with TWO NASFAA credential opportunities scheduled!

Shannon Crossland, our newly elected SWASFAA President-Elect will be presenting Consumer Information, and I will be presenting Cash Management this year. That is $200.00 worth of credentials for only $75.00!

Remember registration closes October 28th for the training, registration, hotel, and more information is available at the conference mini site,

I look forward to seeing you soon in Oklahoma City!

Brent Small


Fall and Travel Season

Fall in Albuquerque means cooler evenings, changing colors, and best of all the Balloon Fiesta.  Next week, as I drive to work, the sky will be full of hundreds of balloons, I hope.  Got my fingers crossed that the weather will cooperate.   This year for me, fall also means travel to Texas, Arkansas, and Louisiana for state conferences.  Looking forward to making new friendships and reacquainting with old friends.

After state travel, it’s off to beautiful Oklahoma City for SWASFAA’s annual conference, November 9 – 11, at the historic Skirvin Hotel.

Boot Camp committee members, Jan Terry-Sanchez and Jennifer Williams recently blogged about the awesome benefits Boot Camp offers.    I’ve been fortunate enough to have participated in NASFAA Credential training which Mendy Schmerer and Jennifer Williams taught.  SWASFAA is so fortunate to have such engaging, knowledgable trainers.The opportunity to test for 11 NASFAA credentials is such a financial savings, as Jennifer stated in her blog.

New at this year’s conference is a “Town Hall” general session.   NASFAA and FSA representatives will be available to answer members’ questions.  The Annual Conference Committee has designed sessions which are relevant to today’s ever changing financial aid environment.  Do the three letters “PPY” ring a bell?

Local Arrangements Committee recently gave us a peek at the  fun activities they are planning. Be sure to dust of your 60’s, 70’s or 80’s outfit for Thursday evening’s event with “Super Freak”.  Gee, the 80’s is now considered vintage (old), how in the world did that happen!

Just a reminder, hotel reservations need to be made by October 7.  You can find more out about the conference and registration at .

Keep on the look out for future blog postings about the annual conference.  See you soon Texas, Arkansas, and Louisiana members!

The gorgeous hotel Skirvin.










Boot Camp and geocaching

My first visit to Oklahoma was in May when the Boot Camp and Conference Committees had our site visit at the beautiful Skirvin Hilton Hotel. Since I wasn’t that far and the price seemed better, I opted to drive.  My trip through the eastern portion of Oklahoma was a lovely one.  As some of you may have read on my BC biography, I love to geocache.  Since it was so pretty, I decided to stop off at a hiking trail at Lake Eufaula State Park to grab my “cache” (and my OK badge for caching in the state!).  I do wish though I’d understood that you really need to plan your pit stops on that particular drive…all other drivers be warned J  I also really liked the downtown area of OKC.  We all enjoyed the walk to the bar and grill where we had dinner.

While visiting the state or checking out beautiful downtown Oklahoma City may not be your first choice as to why you want to attend SWASFAA Boot Camp, let me see if I can give you some other reasons to attend whether you are new to Financial Aid or an “old pro”.

SWASFAA Boot Camp will be offering an intensive training for 2 ½ days that covers the basics of Financial Aid from how to apply to how to return it. You will also have the opportunity to test in 11 NASFAA Topics.  If you want to talk about a huge bang for your buck, this is it!   Each NASFAA Study Guide and test would cost approximately $299 apiece.  That would be a total of $3289.   If you look at the total cost to attend SWASFAA BC, usually the entire trip would cost much less than that!  Even if you didn’t want to test, the NASFAA Self Study Guides you’ll receive are a very in-depth learning tool any Financial Aid Professional can use.  I’ve learned something with each study guide and test, and I’ve been in Financial Aid for 9 years.  Plus you will get the added bonus of best practices from different schools, networking with other schools, and examples from the presenters.

I hope that you will take this opportunity and that I’ll see you there. I can’t brag enough on the other ladies on this committee that will be presenting.  They are each an expert in their field and just a heck of a lot of fun!  So sign up now for SWASFAA Boot Camp, and enjoy the company, cost savings, and sites.

Jennifer Williams

Boot Camp Comittee