Sunday, May 29, 2016

Protecting Personal Data

By Angela Henry

Cyber security is a frequent topic in the news these days. The risk of information theft often goes hand in hand with the convenience of electronic resources and applications. There are things you can do to help keep your personal information — and the sensitive student information you interact with — private. Personally Identifiable Information (PII) such as credit cards, date of birth and Social Security Numbers should not be shared on applications you do not trust.

Tips for keeping information secure
Anyone who has been the victim of identity theft will likely tell you that the minor inconvenience of taking action to protect your personal data is well worth it to avoid the major disruption of having your sensitive information stolen. 
·         When your computer prompts you to update the operating system, do it. These updates often include security repairs.
·         Log off of any secure applications and close your web browser when you are finished.
·         Beware of using open Wi-Fi in public places to conduct secure transactions.
·         Think differently to create a more secure password. For example, use the first letter of each word in a sentence to create your password. And, never write down or share your user ID, password, or challenge questions/answers.
·         Refrain from opening emails with attachments if you don’t know the sender.
·         Pay attention to the information you are sharing on your social networks.
·         Don’t forget to be cautious with your offline data as well. Shred documents that contain personal or financial information.

As someone who deals with others’ personal information every day, you should place strong emphasis on ensuring appropriate controls are in place to protect sensitive, private or confidential student information.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Summer Institute Testimonial - Deadline Approaching!!

by Lindsay Walton, SI Faculty 2016

Assistant  Director of Student Financial Services, University of Mount Union

I have to be honest. Until the 2014 MASFAA conference in Charleston, WV, I was unaware that MASFAA facilitated such a fantastic and in-depth training opportunity called Summer Institute. As one of the 2014 MASFAA scholarship recipients, I was stepping into foreign territory as a first time MASFAA conference attendee. I was a MASFAA “newbie.” It was there that I learned about Summer Institute after a few folks shared their experiences. They spoke of learning NASFAA’s core modules and having incredible opportunities to network with other financial aid professionals in the region. I left Charleston knowing that I definitely wanted to look into attending the following summer!

Summer Institute was appealing to me for numerous reasons. On the brink of taking on a leadership role within my office, I felt a growing sense of responsibility to really “know my stuff.” By working at a small private university, wearing a lot of hats is not uncommon, but I certainly didn’t know it all. I knew that. I was really determined to build on my existing financial aid framework, fill in the gaps, and define the areas that I lacked in knowledge and in experience. I also genuinely wanted to “spread my wings” and become more involved in organizations to connect with other professionals in the field. Additionally, I learned that Summer Institute attendees have the option of taking the NASFAA credential tests for the modules taught at no cost! With each test being right around $100 ordinarily, this was a tremendous opportunity to showcase proven competency and skills backed by NASFAA. What a great benefit! I saw Summer Institute as my chance to pursue many of the items on my professional wish list!

I arrived in Indianapolis for Summer Institute 2015 feeling excited and ready to go! There were 2 tracks for Summer Institute which ran simultaneously- one for folks very new to the profession and another for folks who were a little more seasoned. I was in the latter group but both groups were taught the same material. It was a week-long crash course in the foundations of financial aid, with a great deal of discussion within the groups. Moreover, the instructors were fantastic! I was very inspired by their passion to convey the material and genuine willingness to answer questions. No question was too big or too small and I greatly appreciated that.

The faculty encouraged us to engage in discussions and share how our own schools were putting the ideas we were learning about into practice. It naturally created a comfortable environment to share best practices and trade contact information with each other for future guidance or collaboration. I obtained specific contacts pertaining to PowerFAIDS, verification, and loan processing in particular. It is reassuring to know that I can reach out to these folks when I run into a problem or just need some feedback. I hope that I can be a resource for them, as well!

Another key component of Summer Institute was the ability to interact with prominent leaders who were attending the Leadership Symposium, which ran simultaneously. During a crossover session, Pamela Fowler, Executive Director at the University of Michigan, gave an inspiring speech to the Summer Institute students. She encouraged us to get involved and be the next wave of leaders in the financial aid field. The motivation and genuine support she conveyed to all of us was unparalleled. Even if we felt too new to the profession to get involved, she encouraged us to just go ahead and jump in!

It was an intense week of learning, but I was amazed at how much FUN I had! All attendees stayed in dorm rooms and were matched up with a roommate. The intention was to promote social interaction as much as possible. Each evening there was something planned in order to promote collaboration and networking among Summer Institute and Leadership Symposium attendees. We had game night with “Minute to Win It” one evening. There was team trivia another evening. A major highlight was attending a midweek minor league baseball game! There was also a “free night” with group dinner options led by Summer Institute or Leadership faculty. The discussions were great and it was interesting to learn about the stories and experiences of others in the financial aid field.

I walked away from Summer Institute a much more confident financial aid professional than the one that arrived. I gained knowledge and experience to better prepare me as a leader and established connections with prominent professionals in the field who continue to encourage and support my growth. Being able to expand my professional network was invaluable. I have also taken and passed all 11 NASFAA credential tests for the modules that were taught at Summer Institute. That is something I am very proud of and worked very hard to accomplish. It is refreshing to be able to add these credentials to my professional repertoire.

The last year and a half or so has been professionally eye-opening for me and especially gratifying. Thank you to MASFAA and Summer Institute! My experiences with both have allowed me to meet some really wonderful people and be a part of some great opportunities. One opportunity in particular that I am very happy to share is that I will be faculty at Summer Institute 2016 at Illinois State University June 13-17. I am very excited to be a resource for the attendees and hopefully inspire them to get involved.

YOU ARE INVITED to Summer Institute 2016! Let’s learn about financial aid, meet some great people, and have a lot of FUN!

Click on the following link for more information and to register for the 2016 MASFAA Summer Institute!

Lindsay Walton
2016 MASFAA Summer Institute Faculty

Monday, May 23, 2016

Summer Institute Testimonial

by Gena Boling, SI Faculty 2016

Associate Director of Student Financial Aid, University of Missouri

Picture this, June 2011. St. Louis, Missouri. It was hot – historic temperatures indicate it was around 97 degrees in June. I just remember sweating – a lot. Sounds like a grand location to lay the building blocks of a financial aid career.

I had been in financial aid for just a few months and received a scholarship from MASFAP to attend the MASFAA Summer Institute to immerse myself in financial aid knowledge. It would be my first experience with the regional association at a time when I still had very little knowledge of the state association. I didn’t know what to expect. But, I knew I had to go.

I was working at Stephens College at the time, and the financial aid director left a few months prior, leaving the two remaining staff in the office to our own devices. MASFAA Summer Institute seemed like a perfect solution to the problem of training – one week, tons of topics, walk away with knowledge it would have taken weeks, if not months to get around to training on in the office. My administration was supportive, so I packed my bags and drove to St. Louis to spend a week with a few of my closest financial aid friends, whom I technically hadn’t met yet.

Summer Institute was scheduled to begin bright and early on a Monday morning, so I arrived at the hotel Sunday evening and anxiously awaited the start of the program. Nervous as could be, I arrived about twenty minutes early to my first session and found I was alone in a room with the Chair of the MASFAA Summer Institute Committee, Candi Frazier (West Virginia). I remember wearing green and I remember Candi rushing up to me to introduce herself – I think I’ll forever be known to her as the first person to arrive to Summer Institute, and that’s okay with me. I’ve admired Candi’s work in financial aid and in MASFAA since that moment and am pleased she remembers who I am, at all.

Financial aid administrators from all across the region began to pile into the room, eager to soak up information like sponges and we weren’t disappointed. Several days of intense training, homework and review each night, mixed with plenty of time for networking and getting to know each other, including one very warm cookout in Pam Fowler’s backyard – it was an excellent week. Let me tell you, no one can teach an EFC hand-calculation like Pam Fowler (Michigan) and when you walk away from that session, you know how to do it – you’ve learned from the best.

So, this is heavy material and the information is packed in tightly so that when you end your week with MASFAA, you are prepared to return to your office as a knowledgeable resource on a variety of financial aid topics. That being said, MASFAA Summer Institute faculty are engaging and fun and turn what could be dry material into interesting learning opportunities. For example, how many times have you seen Vickie Crupper (Michigan) in her pajamas teaching a course on PJs?

Since my time at Summer Institute, I have served on the boards of both our state and regional associations, volunteered hours of time to both associations, and loved every minute of it. I have widened my network of colleagues and count many MASFAA members among friends. And now, five years later, I have the opportunity to return to Summer Institute as a faculty member. I couldn’t wait to tell Candi Frazier when I saw her at the FSA Conference this past fall – she was instrumental in building my foundation. I hope you’ll consider joining me in June on the Illinois State University Campus for a week of intense financial aid training. Who knows where your foundation will take you!

Click on the following link for more information and to register for the 2016 MASFAA Summer Institute!

Gena Boling
2016 MASFAA Summer Institute Faculty

Monday, May 16, 2016

2016 Ohio Spring Conference Update

by Faith Phillips

Director of Financial Aid, Centrail Ohio Technical College - OSU Newark

The theme “It All Starts with Us: Opportunity, Access, Success” was a great message for all that attended the conference at the Bertram, Inn in Aurora, Ohio May 4 – 6, 2016.  We had 206 attendees and welcomed 31 New Members/ first time OASFAA conference attendees.  They were invited to join us for the New Member Welcome/Introduction to OASFAA session just for them!

For the first time in a long time the OASFAA conference began with a Pre-Conference offering NASFAA Credentialing on Student eligibility.  Lindsay Walton of the University of Mount Union and Emily Haynam-Janero of The Ohio State University did an excellent job as presenters conveying not only general eligibility requirements but shared great detail about how database matches and NSLDS information are used to determine and monitor student eligibility.  We had over 50 registrants and the feedback from this training was very positive.  We hope to offer more NASFAA Credentialing over the next year.

The conference opened with a MASFAA update from MASFAA President-Elect and Associate Vice President for Financial Aid at Indian Wesleyan University, Thomas Ratliff.  Thomas provided great information about the state of MASFAA, promoted the upcoming MASFAA Summer Institute and Leadership Symposium as well as the fall conference in Kansas City.  Thomas was not only informative but quite witty.  In addition to kicking off our conference, Thomas also presented an interest session on Required Eligibility Updates to the Department of ED (PPA and ECAR). His knowledge and humor were welcomed!

Also joining was the MASFAA State Representative Exchange, Amy Hagar from Moberly Area Community College and MASFAP President-Elect.  Amy graciously presented on Consumer Information and Disclosure Requirements.   It was a pleasure to host both Thomas and Amy.

We were honored to have Justin Draeger, President and CEO of NASFAA provide a NASFAA update as well as the status on The Hill at our general session on Thursday.  Given the upcoming presidential election, it was not surprising that Justin provided a few laughs during his update.  We had the pleasure of meeting Justin’s son, Truman, who like his dad, arrived in a shirt, tie and slacks looking very much like a mini-Justin. 

During the OASFAA Business Meeting, Amanda Reisinger, OASFAA President presented Phillips, Director of Financial Aid at COTC/Ohio State Newark with the prestigious James W. White Award.  This award is given annually to a member who exemplifies the dedication to students, to the aid community, and to the recipient’s local community-qualities that were so evident in Jim’s career as Director of Financial Aid at Oberlin College.

The Support Professional Award that recognizes an individual or team of support/clerical professionals reporting to an OASFAA member was awarded to Lisa Jackson, Administrative Clerk at Kent State-Ashtabula.  Lisa was nominated by her supervisor Kristina Call and was not only very surprised to win the award but also to see that her mother and Dean came to see the presentation of her award.

Thanks to our entertainment chairs we celebrated in the evening and tapped into our inner Picasso with Canvas and Wine!  A good time was had by all doesn’t even being to describe the fun we had!

Attending OASFAA for the first time was FSA Training Officer Zack Goodwin.  Zack provided interest sessions on Perkins Loan Issues, Academic Calendars (Modules), Unusual Enrollment History, and FAFSA Updates and PPY.  He closed our conference with a Federal Update. The OASFAA Gavel was passed by President Amanda Reisinger to President-Elect Faith Phillips. It was a fulfilled informative week with our colleagues and friends.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Summer Institute Testimonial

by David Peterson, SI Faculty 2016

Director of Financial Aid, Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne

I attended MASFAA Summer Institute in 1995 at Illinois State University.  That was only 21 years ago, but 1995 was a very different time than now.  Cell phones were rarely seen.  Internet access wasn’t a concern.  Nearly all of the presentations for the 135+ participants were done by overhead projector.  All of us sat in one ballroom for the training sessions.  We got huge binders that we had to carry with us everywhere.  Still, Summer Institute in 1995 was cutting edge training for new financial aid professionals.  In fact, MASFAA was viewed by financial aid leaders from all of the regional associations as having the best new professional training in the country.

In 1998 I was given the opportunity to serve as faculty for Summer Institute.  The other faculty that year included Pam Fowler, Zina Haywood, Rebecca Babel, Ginny Washington, David Woodward, Will Shaffner and Jerry Wade.  It was like a who’s who of MASFAA leadership at the time.  I was completely in awe of every one of them!  I think they realized it, and each of them went out of their way to help me out.  Serving on faculty was an incredible experience, and allowed me to really develop myself as a financial aid professional.

Now I have been given the opportunity to serve as a Summer Institute faculty member once more.  Things have changed a lot since back then.  I remember the NASFAA training materials in 1997 were more like the pirates code in the Pirates of the Carribean movies - what you'd call "guidelines" for the presenters rather than actual rules.  Now in 2016, all of us have to be certified by NASFAA just to teach the subject matter.  One thing that hasn’t changed is the enthusiasm and knowledge of the faculty itself.  A really amazing group of financial aid professionals are coming together to provide our association with a Summer Institute and Leadership Symposium that will be second to none.  Participants will get training that prepares them to meet the demands of their campuses as well as the NASFAA credential examinations.  Illinois State University will once again serve as our location, an incredible site for an incredible event.

So get excited for the MASFAA Summer Institute and Leadership Symposium, and see you all at Illinois State University this June!


Monday, May 2, 2016

Tech Tips to Stay on Top

Do you live in a world where you have enough time to read and listen to everything you need to know? No. No you do not. And neither do I. We do, however, live in a world where the resources to keep up with the onslaught of information are getting better and better.

Today’s post is the first in a series aimed at sharing technological resources that you can use to bring efficiency and adaptability to your life. Each has varying degrees of difficulty to implement, but that’s why we have friends in IT, right?

This Week’s Tip: Zamzar – Online File Conversion

Do you ever listen to webinars from ED? Aren’t they great? Except that the files are in .wmv format, which means you have to sit at a Windows computer and watch the darn thing for two hours.

What if you could convert those time-consuming video files to audio and download them to your iPhone or other portable device so you can listen on the go?

Enter Zamzar.

Download the .wmv file from IFAP to your computer and then simply upload it to the Zamzar website under Step 1 of their website. Choose the file type that works best for you in Step 2. If you aren’t sure what format to use for your device, .mp3 and .wav are likely what you need. Enter your email address in Step 3 and wait for the converted file to arrive. You can download the converted file from your email and then upload to your device through programs like iTunes.

When 150% sub was rolling out, I found the 5 part webinar series really helpful. Sitting and watching the webinar once was about all I had time to do. When I found I could convert the file and put it on my iPhone to listen to during my commute or while on the treadmill (fake example), I listened to those webinars several times over. Being able to engage complex information repeatedly helped me with understanding a lot of the nuances and examples ED laid out.

Note: There is an option to do RSS feeds on the IFAP website if you’re into that kind of thing.

If you have never attended one of ED’s webinars or looked through their archive, take some time today to see what they have. If you see something and think ain’t nobody got time for that, you might find Zamzar to be a useful tool.