Monday, October 31, 2016

From Missouri to West Virginia: State Exchange Experience

Last week I had the privilege to travel to West Virginia for the WVASFAA Conference! Thank you, MASFAA and WVASFAA for making this a possibility through the state exchange program. I must say that West Virginia is gorgeous during this time of year. Many pretty fall colors and very fitting to the conference theme, Seasons of Change, something of which is all too familiar to a financial aid professional. 

The conference kicked off with a Financial Aid Trivia that incorporated many different game shows. I absolutely enjoyed the answer to the first question, ‘It Depends.’ So many times in our world, rightfully so, the first thought is it depends. Following this, Brian Weingart from the WV Higher Education Policy Commission gave the state update and I must admit that West Virginia has implemented a clever idea to encourage NASFAA Core training. Hey Missouri, they are making their way to the top in credentials! As of the conference, West Virginia was third however I know many of my new friends attended training two days prior to this conference. They may surprise us and take the lead soon.  

Many of the conference sessions were geared toward change. Working with Millennials, being the Gen Xer that I am, this is an ever important change for me. They also held a roundtable session for PPY and PJs. This is on the top of every financial aid professionals mind currently and probably one of our biggest changes in recent history. Additionally many of us have seen an increase in veterans on our campuses. Sandy Corwin from Fairmont State University shared how their campus created a Green Zone for their veterans. Each faculty/staff person following training may post a Green Zone sticker outside their office door. This makes for a safe place for a veteran to go to someone for assistance or have someone to lean on or just talk with during tough times. I was in complete awe with how simple a program could be and yet make such a big impact for our veterans who are returning to a college campus.  

We heard from Special Agent, Erik Wolfson. He spoke about investigating student aid fraud and abuse and shared little things to be mindful of when processing student aid. We also had other sessions from which to choose regarding Student Loan Repayment Plans, Program Reviews, Title IX, and Easy Fixes to Crisis Proof Your Retirement to name a few.  

All in all, my visit was wonderful. I have many new ideas to take back to my state association. Being an introvert, it was difficult knowing that I was attending a conference and knew no one in advance. I thank you West Virginia for welcoming me and being very friendly. I have made many knew friends with whom I hope to see at future MASFAA conferences!  

Thank you! 
Kerry Hallahan 
2017 MASFAP President-Elect 

PS: I must share the awesome gift in which the WVASFAA Executive Board gave to me. Each of them signed about where their institution is located in West Virginia. This is going on the wall in my office and is such a great memory of my exchange to West Virginia!

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