Friday, November 8, 2019

October Board Meeting and Legal Issues Symposium

October Board Meeting and Legal Issues Symposium

On October 5, 2019 your SASFAA Board met in Charlotte, NC.  Your Board addressed several issues important to the membership and made every effort to address the needs of SASFAA.

After considerable discussion it was decided to move the clock-hour workshop from the pre-conference session.  The reason the Board made this decision was to better serve our colleagues who serve clock-hour institutions.  Our Fed partners are not allowed to travel on the weekends and would not be able to participate.  In order to strengthen the training provided we have created a clock-hour track in the agenda.  By creating this track we will be able to involve our Federal trainer as well as our school based personnel.  Please encourage institutions with clock-hours to attend the conference and participate in this special track.

The Board instructed our Electronic Services Chair to review the various options available for the mobile conference application.  We want to continue providing the app, but we want to make sure we get the best possible rate.

A careful review of the budget was held during the meeting and the Board was challenged to make sure they were utilizing SASFAA funds carefully and with the best results for the membership at the front of all spending.  A review of SASFAA’s investments was also providing during the meeting.

Our Membership Chair informed the Board that membership is up over 11% from last year.  This is great news.  We want to see that number increase as a strong SASFAA should help improve membership for our state associations.  We are a team and we would love to see every member of SASFAA an active member of their state association as well.

Your Conference Chair gave an exciting report about our conference in February.  If you haven’t made plans to attend, please make this outstanding event part of your travel plans.  With the high cost of FSA this year, and with the strong Federal training at SASFA, this is a great way to stretch your travel dollars.  The program is outstanding, and a dinner cruise is included.  By the way, the dinner cruise was approved because its cost is appreciably less than a meal at the hotel!!!

Immediately after the Board meeting we had the Legal Issues Symposium.  It was a fantastic three days discussing the legal issues we face now and in the future. The content was amazing and speakers were even better.  Those who attended all expressed how beneficial this was to them as an individual, and to their offices.  A special thank your to Joan Bailey and Brenda Brown for making this project a success.

The Board is working on many projects this year, and as each one will be included in this Blog, as they all come to fruition.  Exiting things are already going on, and will continue with your help this year.

I will end with our quote for the year from Robert Greenleaf – “I will go; Come go with me!

William K. Spiers, Jr.
SASFAA President 2019-20

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Membership and Walking Together

You'll Never Walk Alone

Yes, it is a sports analogy, I know they all seem a bit cliché but, hear me out.  Besides, a little rah-rah pep talk is sometimes needed (especially after our fall rush periods).

Several years ago, I got into watching soccer (or football depending on where you come from), and over time I started to follow the English Premiere League. My favorite quickly became a team from Liverpool, England. “The Reds,” Liverpool Football Club (LFC) has been around since 1892, with a storied history and fans from all corners of the globe.  Besides being one of the most successful clubs in the history of the sport, I was drawn to the team’s sense of family and the comradery between the fans, players, coaches, and owners.  When I first started to watch and follow LFC, they were not the best team in the league. Yet no matter how bad they did, that sense of family was always strong.  Support, Community, Grit, Solidarity … a way of life... We are a Family.   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YhqiSO_UFxg

I have travelled quite bit in the past few years; I always seem to find a fellow Liverpool fan.  That brings me to the title of this post. Since 1963, the club’s anthem has been "You'll Never Walk Alone." It was a chart toping hit from Gerry and the Pacemakers and part of the British invasion.  The song has become so engrained in the team it is now on their official crest, and recognized as their official pregame anthem. The song and the abbreviation YNWA have come to personify that the family of LFC fans and its togetherness is what is most important, not their athletic performance the “pitch.”

Just walk around wearing an LFC shirt or hat in almost any place in the world, and I can guarantee you someone will shout out “You’ll Never Walk Alone” or “Go Reds!”  Hearing someone say that, instantly connects you no matter where, or who, you are.  Does any of that sound familiar?

I say this because I was thinking about what connects me so much to, not just higher education, but the financial aid profession specifically.   Sure, first I love the fact that I am helping students achieve their college dreams, much as I was able to achieve mine.  As a first-generation college graduate, I am grateful to financial aid for what it allowed me to accomplish. I feel like I am giving back a little bit to the world.  However, could I not also do similar work in the admissions, advising, and registrar’s offices? (My boss tells me to shake my head “No!”)

We could work in numerous departments within higher education and impact students’ lives. But I think the financial aid profession is special because of the sense of family and connection through shared struggles and success.  Much like fans of “The Reds,” no matter where we are, we will always find some who works in aid and are INSTANTLY CONNECTED.

We are all connected by the same rules and regulations beyond our schools; we do not usually compete over students, per se, like some of our counterparts in other departments.   We often feel somewhat separated from other divisions in our own colleges because of long hours, deadlines, and accountability.  In many cases we are closer to our FA counterparts at other schools than folks in our own school because they “understand” where we are coming from and where we are going.

By and large, Financial Aid professionals want to help all students regardless of where they attend.  We understand the need for post-secondary education and fight for access for all students.  Moreover, that drive and that sense of kinship often set us apart from the rest of higher education.   You can see this at conferences, workshops, webinars, in emails and phone calls between us.  It shows just how selflessly and willingly we help each other out.   I do not see the same level of sharing (information, processes, insights, and support) come as readily from other departments as it does from within financial aid.

So next time things are rough for you, last minute students are in your office and you cannot see your desk for all the papers, remember.  Remember that you are part of the best family/community in higher education, with thousands of others that will never let you walk alone.  Just watch the video of LFC fans and players and imagine that we are like them one voice for our students and each other…. You Never Walk Alone.

Wayne Kruger
SASFAA Membership Chair 2019-20

Friday, August 30, 2019

August! and Guiding the Future


As I tell my staff, this is the most wonderful time of the year!  I know we are all very busy and I want to wish you a smooth start to the year.  Stay strong, and remember, what we are doing is making dreams come true!

I have one quick update I need to share with you.  As are result of obligations on her job, Sandy Neel has had to step off the Board.  Sandy was working on the LRP and governance issues.  While we hate to lose Sandy, our first responsibility is to the organization that signs our checks.  Sandy is on this email and I want to take this opportunity to thank her for her work and support of SASFAA, and for me personally.  She will be missed.

Stepping in to work on LRP and governance is another outstanding member of SASFAA – Keith Reeves.   Keith is good friend and will work hard to carry this project forward. Keith, I personally thank you for your willingness to step up and take over this task.  Keith and I served on the last long range plan and I know he is going to do an outstanding job for SASFAA.

Keep an eye on the Legal Issues Workshop.  It is really coming together.  You will want to attend and encourage others to do the same.  I am looking forward to this event.

This week, call a colleague who is not a member of SASFAA and encourage them to join.  Wayne Kruger tells me we are off to a good start with membership, but we want to see SASFAA grow.  Working together we can make that happen.

Thank you for all you do for students and SASFAA.  With all of us working together it is going to be a great year!

Bill Spiers
SASFAA President 2019-2020

Friday, July 19, 2019

It's July - Let's Get Started!

Greetings from Virginia, SASFAA!

Hello, from the Commonwealth of Virginia!  As VASFAA President, I have the privilege of addressing the SASFAA membership this July.  VASFAA concluded our transition meeting a few weeks ago.  I am humbled by the talented folks we have serving this year.  They are sure to have an impact on the “places” VASFAA goes, which brings me to our theme – “Oh, the places we’ll go!”

I chose this theme to pay homage to Dr. Seuss, who sparked intellectual curiosity in many of us at an early age.  Reading was fun because of him and his wacky characters.  Additionally, the theme speaks to many of our careers.  Did you really ever see yourself as a financial aid administrator?  I sure didn’t.  Cop was my first choice. (Really!)  Believe it or not, the appeal of these two seemingly divergent careers – law enforcement and student financial aid – share a common thread.  For me, the appeal was the desire to help and have a positive impact on our society.  Funny, I find I’m much more successful in doing that in financial aid and through my involvement in our professional organizations.

The topic of involvement brings me to a few questions about our profession that I’ve been pondering for a while.  Why do we get involved?  I do because this is a profession, not an easy job; getting involved has provided the support network I need to re-center and understand the impact we make.  The work is rewarding and we know that college makes a difference but, at this time of year the work can become quite daunting.  During this peak season while our friends are out enjoying the pool, beach, or substitute any summer activity you’d rather be taking part in, we are in the office.  We are worried about students that cannot pay their summer bill and how they will get registered for the fall.  Or, we are trying to figure out exactly how we reach all those students that still have not submitted their verification documents so we can have their aid in place by the first day of school.  Without the trusted colleagues, mentors, and friends I have made as a result of our professional organizations I doubt I would still be working in financial aid.  Being involved in VASFAA and SASFAA is just my small way of saying thanks to those people and trying to pay it forward. 

So, how do we energize those within our profession to get involved?  How do we get them to recognize the difference between a job and a profession, and invest themselves in it?  We need to encourage folks to stay and grow their skillset so they can take leadership roles.    We hear every day about So-and-So’s retirement.  We all have vacancies that we need to fill.  Financial aid needs qualified folks ready to fill the voids.

I haven’t figured out how to tackle this issue – but it’s one I’ll keep mulling.  I’ll be checking back here to see what you suggest.  

That’s the beauty of our work; we have each other.

Brad Scaggs

VASFAA President 2019-20

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

What is Service?


Over the last number of years the buzz word has been servant leadership which embraces the concept that we should serve not for what we can get, but rather what we can give.  This concept is often counter to what we are looking for when we volunteer our time and efforts, but it is the purest form of service.
My first step as I prepared to write the blog was to consult the old Merriam Webster Dictionary to find the definition of service.  As I read the many definitions from military service to a religious service, the one that caught my attention was, “useful labor that does not produce a tangible commodity.”  An easy way to state this is service should be for the good of those being served, not for the one who is serving.

A Presbyterian minister speaking on giving once said, “The joy of giving doesn’t always occur at the time you give, but rather when you see what your giving can accomplish.”  While he was focused on monetary giving to the church, the same is true of leadership to an association like SASFAA.  Many times those who serve SASFAA have tasks that require time, talent, research, commitment.  It is easy to grow weary, but when you see your finished work, and the impact it has on SASFAA and your fellow members, you realize all your labor was worth the effort.

SASFAA needs you to serve!  Whether on a committee, in leadership, or at a conference, or training event you are needed.  SASFAA cannot run solely on the efforts of the Executive Board.  While the Executive Board is important, there is too much that needs to be accomplished.  Active involvement and service by the entire membership will strengthen SASFAA as an organization and provide the input we need to guarantee the needs of the membership are being addressed.
When you serve, know that your “useful labor that does not produce a tangible commodity” does make a tangible difference.  

You are needed.  Can we count on you to serve?

Bill Spiers
2018-19 President-elect

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Conference Updates


Hello SASFAA, this is your 2018-2019 Sponsorship Chair, Chester Priest, with an update!  As of February 5, 2019 we have 31 sponsors/contributors for conference support!

There are 5 “Lunch and Learn” sessions on Monday the 18th at 11:30 that our sponsors are presenting:

  • Introduction to Oracle Student Financial Planning Cloud Service
  • For Low-Income Students, Success Depends on More Than Just Financial Aid
  • Innovations in Financial Aid Management Solutions: What's Inceptia Uncomplicating Now?
  • Engaging Students Using an Artificially Intelligent Chatbot
  • Student Consumer Credit
We will also have a game (with prizes) for the you, the attendees!  Just visit each sponsor table, and get your entry card marked.  Once you've visited all sponsors, and your card is complete, turn it in to yours truly, and be entered in the Wednesday morning drawing!

Chester Priest
2018-19 Sponsorship Chair

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Perspectives - Theirs, Yours, and How to Keep Them Relevant

I Wonder How It Felt….

When I was in elementary Sunday school, we would sing, “I Wonder How It Felt.”*  The lyrics refer to Bible stories that were familiar to me, even as a child.

I wonder how it felt to wake up in the belly of a whale.
I wonder how it felt to spend the night with Paul and Silas in the jail.
I wonder how it felt to meet big Goliath in the field.

The list goes on…, but the chorus is really what I want you to think about today.  The chorus, (paraphrased) I am just a child, my life is here before me, I just cannot wait to see what God has for me, and trusting Him in the wait to see what life will be for me.

You may be asking yourself…Why am I reading this?  Or thinking, I don’t have time for nonsense!  But, HOLD ON…Now that you know the background, stay with me for a couple more minutes.

The other day, this song unexpectedly popped into my head.  At first, I thought that there was absolutely no reason for me to think of this song.  Then, I realized that there was most definitely a reason.  As our office began to be busier and busier, I was so busy seeing student after student that I failed to ‘wonder how it felt’ to be that student.

Have you ever wondered how it feels to be a student sitting across the desk from you?
Have you ever wondered how it feels to wonder whom, or where, your parents are?
Have you ever wondered what that student has seen that you could not begin to imagine?
Have you ever wondered how it feels to have no running water, or indoor toilet?
Have you ever wondered how it feels to go hungry? **

I grew up in rural Alabama. Most of the kids at my school thought my family was rich.  We were low middle class at best, but we were rich in love.  I never had to worry that I would not have running water (well, except for that big snowstorm and frozen pipes).  I never had to worry about having parents that loved me unconditionally.  I never had to worry about leaving my house to go to an outhouse.  Believe it or not, in the 80s and 90s I had friends that used a well for water, and an outhouse. 

I say all of this to say:  the chair that is currently sitting empty in your office is filled with the ‘feels and felts’ of many students.

The question is – When a student leaves your office, does s/he know that s/he
     is a student and life is just before her/him?
     can put her/his trust in you, self, and the institution?
     can’t wait to walk across that stage with degree in hand, knowing that success knows no bounds?

Today, I challenge you to ‘wonder how it feels’ to be the people that encounter you.  Remind them, and yourself:

“If you think you are beaten, you are
If you think you dare not, you don't,
If you like to win, but you think you can't
It is almost certain you won't.

If you think you'll lose, you're lost
For out of the world we find,
Success begins with a fellow's will
It's all in the state of mind.

If you think you are outclassed, you are
You've got to think high to rise,
You've got to be sure of yourself before
You can ever win a prize.

Life's battles don't always go
To the stronger or faster man,
But soon or late the man who wins
Is the man WHO THINKS HE CAN!”

“Thinking” or “The Man Who Thinks He Can” by Walter Wintle

*I did not recall who wrote this song, so I ‘Googled’ it.  “I Wonder How it Felt” by the Gaither Vocal Band. 
I have never heard them actually sing this song.  My mom would just play this on the piano out of her children’s book.

**During the SASFAA Conference, the 2019 SASFAA Charities are Mimi’s Pantry, Coastal Carolina University Food Pantry, and the Horry-Georgetown Technical College Food Pantry, let’s all come together to support these food pantries so that others don’t have to know how it feels to go hungry. https://www.sasfaa.org/charity2019

Stephanie Miller
2018-19 AASFAA President