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 or 210-458-7295.


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

Nominations & Election

A few years ago my phone rang and on the other end of the line was Lisa Hopper, who at the time was SWASFAA’s past-president.   To my surprise she asked if I was interested in throwing my hat in the ring to run for SWASFAA’s president-elect.  Surely, I did not hear her correctly.  “Oh, boy, how could I be qualified?”    Way out of my comfort zone, like way out-in-left-field.   I took a huge leap of faith and said, “yes”

Looking back, I’m glad that I took the leap.  Having the opportunity to meet our SWASFAA members was definitely the highlight of 2016.  There is a reason why SWASFAA is a great organization, our members.  As president, I received tremendous support from past presidents, prior board members, and of course current board members.  Everyone “had my back”. Taking that leap of faith in spring of 2014 provided me not only tremendous professional growth, but a lifetime of wonderful memories.

If you’ve thought about becoming involved with the SWASFAA board,  please consider throwing your hat in the ring for one of the following positions:

  • President-Elect (Three year commitment)
  • Secretary (Two year commitment)
  • Oklahoma Delegate-At-Large (Two year commitment)
  • Texas Delegate-At-Large (Two year commitment)

The on-line Officer Nomination Form is available at the SWASFAA’s home page.  If you know a member who is interested in serving, but is shy about nominating herself/himself, please nominate her/him.  Of course, it would be a good idea to confirm with the member of her/his willingness to be nominated 🙂

If you have any questions about the commitment requirements for the open positions, please do not hesitate to contact me or any prior board member.   I have no doubt that current and prior board members will gladly share their experience.

Deadline for submission of nominations is June 30, 2017.





Three Institutional Factors Impacting Student Attrition

Submitted by Memory Keller of Student Connections

In addition to the primary research we conduct, such as through our work with students and academic experts on our Advisory Boards, Student Connections regularly reviews findings from around the industry. Recently, we examined factors impacting student retention at colleges and universities in the United States.

Financial aid and resources available
It’s no surprise that students most commonly abandon their pursuit of higher education because of money.  In fact, ACT identifies the amount of financial aid available to students as the number one factor contributing to student attrition rates for all types of colleges and universities. (Wesley R. Habley and Randy McClanahan, “What Works in Student Retention?” ACT, 2004, p. 10). Financial aid services is also listed among the top factors.  Further, Ruffalo Noel Levitz reports that the high cost of schooling, an obligation to obtain full-time employment because of financial need, personal emergencies and uncertainty about the return on investment from a college education all contribute to student attrition (“2016 National Report:  Freshman Motivations to Complete College,” Ruffalo Noel Levitz, 2016, p. 4).

Choosing the right school and program
In addition to finances, uninformed decisions regarding which institution to attend and a poor understanding of the matriculation process appear to be major factors in student attrition.  The Institute for Higher Education Policy reports that choosing which institution to attend is a complicated and confusing process, especially for first-generation and non-traditional students (Tiffane Cochran and Ann Coles, “Maximizing the College Choice Process to Increase Fit & Match for Underserved Students,” Institute For Higher Education Policy, 2011, p. 3). These students often do not have the background or access to tools that will help them fully consider the different pathways to the achievement of their educational goals. Once they do select an institution, they are often challenged by admission and financial aid processes.  These factors often lead to students not selecting the institution that would best meet their individual needs and subsequently dropping out before they achieve their educational goals.

Lack of involvement and engagement
The third institutional factor impacting student attrition is lack of student involvement in campus life.  According to the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE), the more involved students are with their institutions, the more invested they are in their education.  NSSE also has identified a correlation between student involvement and higher grades and completion rates.  It makes sense that feelings of safety and belonging can go a long way toward keeping students engaged and working toward their educational goals.

The good news in these variables lies in what they share in common: They are under institutional influence. There are steps you can take today at your school to improve student engagement, understanding of enrollment requirements and campus culture, and financial literacy. In fact, the more you consider these seemingly disparate areas, the more apparent it becomes that they are integrated aspects of one unifying goal: student success. You may find you have little control over one area. However, by seizing opportunities to make a positive difference in others, you can shape the common outcome they produce.