Skip to content

Training Tip of the Month — March

March 24, 2015

Did you Know

Are we all speaking the same language? Do you often find yourself in meetings with colleagues from other departments and wonder if you’re on the same page as everyone else? Do you get that blank look from students or parents when you are enlightening them about financial aid? If your answer is “sometimes” or “yes,” then you are not alone! Here are a few tips that can help you communicate in the same vernacular with your students, their families, and folks from other departments in your school. You can keep your secret language (and secret handshakes!) for your office or financial aid conferences.

Don’t assume everyone understands FinancialAid-ese (or: E-I-E-I-O)!

Even though we may use our acronyms and lingo daily does not mean that everyone has a clue what we’re talking about. Be sure to explain terms that may be unfamiliar to someone outside the profession. Strive for clarity especially with students and their families and always define the acronym you are using!

Terminology matters!

Your students especially need to understand the basics: grants vs. loans, what is an award letter, what is Work Study…  Do you include definitions online? Is your Consumer Information clear with vocabulary and free from acronyms? Consider including a fact sheet or glossary with award letters or other mailings that may have confusing jargon. Have a financial aid glossary page easily accessible online with the most important terms. Do a “Did You Know?” or “Tip of the Week” post on your social media sites that includes financial aid definitions.

Interdepartmental communication matters, too!

Simple terms (to us) like “no show,” “census date,” or “disbursement” may mean something different to colleagues outside of your department. Does “no show” mean “never attended” to you but “showed up the first day and then disappeared” to faculty? Since the difference has an impact on financial aid, it’s important to collaborate with other staff and faculty to be sure you’ll all using the same definitions. How about “disbursement”? Does that mean funds are transmitted to a student’s account or a refund check is available? Clear up the confusion by collaborating with other departments to create an interdepartmental glossary all employees can understand. Have that glossary as part of your P&Ps and available online or via your campus network. Create a fun definitions game to have during in-service or hold a training during lunch. Keep in mind that changing regulations can yield new or changed terminology, which can contribute to the confusion, so your collaboration will need to be an ongoing effort.

Speaking of languages…

Do you have resources for a varied audience? As your school population becomes more diverse, be sure your school has information available that everyone can understand. Are you bilingual or do you know who in your school is bilingual and willing to help with translation when needed? At the very least, are you aware of online translators like Google translator? Do you provide FAFSAs and brochures in Spanish? What about resources for blind or deaf students? Is your office area accessible to handicapped students?


There’s no shortage of glossaries available to link to or use definitions from for your web or printed publications. Here’s just a sampling:

Federal Student Aid:


The College Board:


American Education Services:


English-Spanish Glossary (TG and the Department of Education):

Other Resources has Spanish and braille publications:

TG’s Spanish-Language Resources:

FinAid’s Ayuda Financiera del Estudiante en Español:

EducationQuest’s Information for Students with Disabilities:

This Tip of the Month was provided by your RMASFAA Training Committee

Out of the Office: Wellness for RMASFAA Members When We Are Not Working

March 20, 2015

The Association News committee is introducing a new series that highlights what our members do when they are “Out of the Office”:  hobbies, sports, clubs, philanthropy projects, etc.   Discussing all of the things that enrich and improve our own lives. Mostly, it is an opportunity to learn more about your fellow RMASFAA members when they are “Out of the Office”.   In order to help others, we have to take care of ourselves…..and that is what this new series will highlight.

The Family Journal


When I was in junior high, my English teacher, who I had a crush on, suggested we all keep a journal. Of course, I went straight home that night and got started. I took a regular, old spiral notebook, and began to write all the things that were important to a fourteen-year-old boy. I look back at it and shake my head at the things I felt were so important then that now seem very silly. I kept writing in that same journal through college. During my fifth year of college, I married my wife, Kathy. Two years into our marriage, we had our first child, Robby and then very quickly had our daughter, Gracie. It began a new chapter in my life, so I tossed aside the old, self-centered journal and began our family journal.

I went to Barnes and Noble and found the nicest leather journal. I encouraged the kids and Kathy to write in it whenever they wanted. I also said it could be around for generations, so be careful what they wrote. Basically it is all my writing except for a few errant drawings and very short entries from my kids (after many gentle, passive-aggressive suggestions). Kathy was much better about it.

The family journal is now full of what we did on vacations, the day great-grandparents passed away, what we did on a lazy Sunday afternoon, the recipe for our family spaghetti sauce. I can open to any page and remember that scene all over again in clear, vibrant technicolor. If our house caught on fire, the family journal would be the one thing that I would take with me. (Well, I would grab Kathy, too.)

A family journal is a good way to keep life in perspective, especially when work gets busy. Here are a few of my suggestions for keeping a family journal of your own:

  • Buy a nice, sturdy journal that can be kept out on the coffee table and will stand the test of time.
  • No pressure. You can write in it daily, weekly, monthly – I missed a whole year once. Just don’t make it a task.
  • Tuck it into your suitcase when you go on vacation and record what you do. If you forget it, write on the hotel stationary and tape it into the journal later.
  • Try not to turn it into a scrapbook. Keep it simple. You may not always have time to print pictures, but you can always scratch down a few lines.
  • You don’t have to have a “family” in the traditional definition. Start one of your own ponderings, or with you and a loved one. Force your friends to write in it when they come over for dinner. The more entries from important people in your life, the better.
  • Entries don’t have to be an outpouring of emotions. I have a few entries that are bulleted lists of the day. Again, this journal is what you want it to be.

Jim Harris, Association News Committee Member

Jim  Harris

Submit Ideas NOW for RMASFAA 2015 Conference Program

March 17, 2015

RMASFAA and CAFAA are a Match Made in Heaven!

Do you have a great idea for a breakout session at the RMASFAA conference this fall in Colorado? Have you seen someone (in your office, in your state, in your dreams) who would be an awesome addition to our program?

Applications and nominations are welcome, along with ideas for what YOU would want to learn about. Let us know what you’d like to see on the 2015 agenda!

Complete the form and email it to James Broscheit, our Program chair, by April 15th.  Or just send an email to James with your thoughts!

For more conference information, contact the Conference Chairs, Brogan and Natalie.


DON’T MISS OUT…DMCI Scholarships!

March 12, 2015


The RMASFAA Diversity and Multicultural Initiative Committee (DMCI) would like to bring your attention to the application for a scholarship to assist RMASFAA members with costs to attend either the RMASFAA Summer Institute (June 7 – 12 in Golden CO) or the RMASFAA Annual Conference (October 11 – 14 in Westminster, CO)

The deadline to submit the application is April 3, 2015.

The scholarship is intended primarily for underrepresented communities, although, please do not hesitate to apply should you be interested in advocating for the mission of the DMCI Committee.

You will find the scholarship application on the RMASFAA website under online forms.  Below is the link to the application.

Note:  You must be a current member to be considered for the scholarship, so please make certain that your payment is current.

If you have difficulty with the application process, please contact Eileen Griego

Leadership Pipeline Spotlight

March 10, 2015

Leadership Pipeline Spotlight – Don Buehrer (Mentor) and Julie Watson (Mentee)

lead word

In our second blog post about the Leadership Pipeline, highlighting past and present mentors and mentees, I had the opportunity to speak with Don Buehrer (mentor) (Former Director of Financial Aid at Mount Marty College {SD} and Regional Director, Nelnet Partner Solutions, retired) and Julie Watson (mentee) (Former Customer Service Manager and currently Assistant Director at Montana State University at Bozeman).  Don and Julie were part of 2013-2014 cohort of Leadership Pipeline participants.

Don Julie

What led you to become a mentor/mentee

  • Don: “From the very start of my financial aid career I was impressed with how people in the profession were willing help me when I had questions or needed help. The Student Financial Aid profession is unique in that people are so willing to help each other.  Leadership Pipeline was my opportunity to give back.  I wanted to encourage new people to get involved and help them realize their leadership potential.”
  • Julie: “I had gone to a (MASFAA) state conference, and then to the RMASFAA annual conference and was motivated by what I had learned there to get more involved. There was a push for Montana applicants for Leadership pipeline, and so with the support of my supervisors I decided this was my opportunity to gain leadership skills and learn more about my profession.”

If you were going to tell one story about the experience, what would it be?

  • Don: “Julie accepted a position with greater responsibility within her office mid-way through the yearlong Leadership Pipeline process, and we decided we needed to incorporate some role playing and practice to help her with her new position. This motivated me to think outside of the box and to tap into my creative side designing exercises to help her with her new position.”
  • Julie: “It was daunting to accept the challenge of a new position, and I was grateful to have a mentor already in place to help me develop the tools I needed to accomplish my job. The interactions and feedback Don gave me helped tremendously, and I learned a lot.  Leadership Pipeline is a great asset.”

What was the most challenging part of the experience?

  • Don: “I entered into the mentor/mentee relationship not knowing Julie’s level of motivation, confidence or experience, and I wasn’t sure how she would react to constructive comments. I wanted to mentor in a positive way without becoming over-bearing.  I discovered that Julie had a great interest in moving forward, and that we were on the same wavelength, which made it easy for me to be her mentor.”
  • Julie: “I wasn’t sure if I was up to the challenges of the coursework, especially considering the logistical problems involving distance, and the time demands on my already busy schedule. But I was able to sail through it and I cherish the mentor/mentee relationship I developed with Don.

What was the most rewarding part of the experience?

  • Don: “I’ve always had a philosophy that preparation inspires confidence. We had an exercise from the book ‘You’re the Director” which required each participant to make a presentation to the group.  I sensed that Julie was not confident of her public presentation skills, but I knew she had done a great job researching and preparing for the session. I encouraged her to use her own words and to have confidence in her preparation.  She was the first one to speak and it was obvious that she was thoroughly prepared.  She answered the follow-up questions perfectly.  Later, at the end of the year, Julie was also required to present at the RMASFAA Annual Conference and she did well. The change in her confidence levels from beginning to end was amazing.”
  • Julie: “Growing and gaining confidence, and having Don’s experience and feedback were invaluable. The relationships I built with the other members of the group were great.  Now when I go to conferences I have this group of people I am always excited to see.  I also know that we are there for each other.  It was great to connect with the bigger picture within Financial Aid.  The whole experience was amazing, and I encourage everyone to go for it.”

How did participating in the Leadership Institute affect or direct your professional development.

  • Don: “I learned as much as a mentor as Julie learned as a mentee. Anyone who knows me will tell you that patience, open mindedness and listening are not amongst my greatest virtues.  My goal as a mentor was to hone those skills, and by the end I had become a more patient and open minded listener.”
  • Julie: “The skills and relationships I gained going through Leadership Pipeline have made me stronger. They helped me persevere through a difficult year filled with change and challenges and capped off by a bad automobile accident.   What was most important was that Leadership Pipeline gave me a foundation of relationships; Don’s, my fellow Pipeline teammates’ and the wonderful people at RMASFAA that sustained me.

What’s the one piece of advice you would give to an individual entering into a mentor/mentee experience?

  • Don: “All parties should realize that it’s a learning experience, that there will be learning involved. The best way to maximize that experience is to take the extra time needed to get to know your partner and your team members.  I felt Julie and I had a successful mentor/mentee relationship because we took the time to understand Julie’s goals for the experience.”
  • Julie: “I second what Don said. This is an amazing opportunity to learn, but you need to be open and receptive and give yourself over to the experience.  The more you put into the program the more you’ll get out of it.  I’d like to encourage more people to get involved as mentors and mentees in Leadership Pipeline.”

Roger Matthew, Association News Committee Member, Montana

Roger Matthew

Financial Aid’s Totally Tubular Mix Tape!!

March 6, 2015


We are very excited to host this year’s Summer Institute in beautiful Golden, Colorado!  Our theme this year is totally rockin’…80’s Music!  Please plan on joining us June 7 – 12 to participate in some of the best financial aid training in the country.  We’ve got room for newcomers to financial aid as well as more seasoned folks looking to bolster their knowledge.  Our registration is now live on the RMASFAA website.  Remember to register early (by April 17) to save $100!  We’ve got a tremendous faculty this year, and we look forward to having you with us this summer.

Rob Drybread, Summer Institute Chair
(and his rockin’ committee!)

Utah State Update

March 4, 2015

Greetings from beautiful Utah!  We’ve been experiencing an identity crisis this winter, fluctuating between 60 degree days and snow. There’s nothing quite like snowboarding in a tank top in my humble opinion.


Snowboarding anyone?

It’s been rather quiet here since hosting RMASFAA’s Annual Conference in October 2014 at Snowbird Resort. A good time was had by all (maybe too much of a good time?) We hope everyone who was able to attend found it to be a rewarding and worthwhile experience.


UASFAA members at RMASFAA conference

Due to hosting the RMASFAA Conference, UASFAA did not hold a state conference in 2014. That means this year’s UASFAA conference will be twice as good! The conference is being held April 29 – May 1 at Weber State University, Davis Campus.  This year’s theme is “Guardians of the Financial Aid Galaxy.” Fingers crossed for a talking raccoon! Sessions we are looking forward to include ‘SAP Best Practices’, ‘Professional Judgment’, and ‘Customer Service: Disney Style’, among others.  The annual changing of the guard will also take place with John Curl, Director of Financial Aid at the University of Utah, taking over the gavel as President of UASFAA.

In support of RMASFAA’s Leadership Pipeline program, Cristi Millard, Director of Financial Aid at Salt Lake Community College, will be acting as a mentor this round. We hope to encourage the Utah financial aid community to take advantage of the opportunities the Leadership Pipeline provides in both the roles of mentees and mentors.


Beautiful Utah!

As I bring this post to a close I’m looking outside at viciously blowing snow while dreaming of playing hooky and hitting the slopes because guess what, it’ll be 55 degrees tomorrow. But alas, 2015-16 aid year preparations beckon me back to reality. Best wishes RMASFAA friends for a successful rest of the year!

Eleanor Roberts
Association News Committee Member, Utah

Pic of Eleanor