Monday, March 16, 2020

Difficult Days

Dear SASFAA Family,

These are indeed difficult days in which we live.  Many of our member institutions have either gone to all online classes or canceled the remainder of the semester.  This will stretch the finances of the schools where our members work.  Please continue to keep all these matters in your thoughts and prayers.

With all the things going on, I have not had the opportunity to send out my brief after the Board meeting.  I am pleased to report that we had an excellent meeting with much discussion on important issues facing our association.  You can rest assured you have a strong Executive Board whose goal is to represent you and ensure funds are spent to provide the training needed to keep SASFAA members up to date on the issues facing financial aid.

In our meeting the Executive Board:
  • Reviewed our budget
  • Adopted a social media policy on how we choose which sites SASFAA as an organization will participate in and what can and cannot be posted on the site.  As you know, SASFAA must remain a-political and always avoid inappropriate postings about our members and institutions on our social media platforms.  Thank you Chad Sartini for your hard work on this project.
  • The annual New Aid Officers Workshop was discussed, and Joan Bailey provided important information on the needed change to Tusculum University.
  • Celena Tulloss, our President-Elect, worked with our state presidents and presented a plan to assist with the cost of attending SASFAA board meetings.
  • Committees, states, and task force chairs provided updates on their projects.

After the Board Meeting we enjoyed a fantastic conference.  Almost 400 of our members joined us in Norfolk for “Courage, Compassion, Collegiality: A Survivor’s Guide for Uncharted Waters.”  Joan Zanders and her crew developed a program designed to meet the needs of every member.   Thank you Joan and crew for your wonderful work!!

If you have not made arrangements to send anyone to the New Aid Officers Workshop, there is still time.  This is an outstanding event and we feel certain we will be able to meet in June.  Hopefully COVID-19 will be in the review mirror at that point.  The training afforded your staff will be of benefit to you and your institution.

I will be calling for a conference call of the Executive Board next week to assess the impact of COVID-19 on our states.  Many are either rescheduling or canceling their annual conference. 

SASFAA is not only a professional association, but a family of financial aid professionals ready, willing, and able to help each other as needed.  I am thankful for the opportunity to serve an organization where we are all willing to help fellow members.  SASFAA is known for stepping up to the plate in hard times, and I know this will be the case as we work through this current situation. 

In these days of uncertainty, stay strong.

Bill Spiers
SASFAA President
Tallahassee Community College

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

What Is Love?

What is love?

Okay, come on now…. we are all in academia, we know what love is, right?  Sure we know what Merriam Webster says: “a strong affection for another arising out of kinship or personal ties.”  However, we often hear people say “I love to read” or “I love to have dinner with friends.”  That isn’t for a person, it is for a thing you do.  Love as a verb means “to hold dear.”  So you can agree that there are different types of love, right?  You should…. because there is!  Love is bigger than you are.  Love is literally what drives each of us daily if we think about it.  Do you love what you do?  Who you do it for?  Why you do it?  Let’s be honest…. not every day we don’t!

We do not love every student we cross paths with, but we love the feeling we get when we are able to help them.  We do not love every co-worker we work with, but we love the feeling of being productive with them for the good of the cause.  We do not love every family member, all the time, but we love our family because it’s who we are and they are a part of us.  All of these things that we love make us who we are as a person.  For example, if I am being completely honest, I am results driven.  There is a serious satisfaction within me for having a project and seeing it through to completion, whether it be work or personal.  I have goals, all the time!  If I meet a goal, I look for a new one.  I know, I know, I am kind of weird like that but I find satisfaction in making things happen.  I am definitely a doer.  Those on this year's SC executive board who took the “Solving the People Puzzle” personality test know that I am a D personality…. results driven, take charge, and love a good challenge!  On the flip side, a D personality isn’t the best listener…. which I do work on, but - I already have an answer in my head, and I want to get it out and be efficient….so let’s move on here!

What do you love?  Well, that’s pretty simple to answer…. what do you think about the most?  Clearly what has your attention defines where your heart is.  Do you love a challenge?  Or do you love being the quiet person who provides solutions to those more ambitious?  I have news for you…. WE NEED ALL TYPES!  The world can benefit from what you have to offer.  Do more of what you love and be good at it!  Now, if your love is bullying people let's back down off of that and get something new to love…. but other than that, what do you love?  Let 2020 be the year you find what you love and give it your efforts.  I promise you, a happy you will reflect in all that you do….so go ahead, love and love hard.

Melanie Gillespie
SCASFAA President
Southern Wesleyan University

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