Monday, May 11, 2015

NASFAA Credentialing - Online Course Path

(by Melissa Haberman, Loan Manager, UW-Madison)

This spring I had the opportunity to take a NASFAA University course in Direct Loans. The 8-week course covered an in-depth study of regulations in the specific topic. The NASFAA University online courses vary in length depending on the amount of material to cover. This course was structured with assigned reading material each week, a few short videos to introduce the material, an online get-together that you could join live or watch later, required discussion questions, one group project, two independent projects, and a weekly quiz.

The most difficult thing for me was finding the time to do all of the required reading. That’s why I think that the course was a great way to go. Even the most self-disciplined of us need timelines and deadlines to prioritize our day. The deadlines for the weekly assignments prevented me from pushing this to the back burner. Another valuable aspect of doing the course rather than a study guide was the chance to ask questions of colleagues and instructors.

Here is my advice to someone considering a course:
  • Allot more time for the reading assignments than you think you will need. There is a lot of material to cover.
  • Pay close attention to the quizzes, the wording used will help you understand how the credential test will be structured.
  • When the class is finished and it’s time to take the test, try the pretest first. That will help you decide if you need more time to study. 
  • Don’t rush through the questions, really take time to read how it is worded.
I’m glad I had the opportunity to take the course. A thorough study of the regulations on a particular topic allows me the opportunity to examine our policies and procedures for direct loans and bring value to my institution by having additional knowledge on compliance for that topic. It is also a valuable benchmark to indicate that I am knowledgeable on a specific financial aid topic. I encourage aid professionals to consider the online courses as a route to becoming credentialed.

Information on NASFAA Credentialing can be found on the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators’ website. The site has a schedule of online courses and self-study guides. In addition, you may be able to attend qualified in-person training events like the MASFAA Summer Institute. Registration has closed for this year, but it's not too early to put it on your calendar for next year!

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