Written by Blanca Perez on behalf of the Diversity and Inclusion Committee!

The Impact of GPA on Institutional and Federal Financial Aid

A key factor that can influence both federal and institutional funding for students is the GPA (Grade Point Average). Federal regulations require students to demonstrate minimum academic requirements in order to benefit from financial aid in the first place and then consistently meet qualitative and quantitative progress standards for continued eligibility. Failure to meet these standards leaves students with the options of paying out of pocket or with scholarships. But a corresponding drawback to scholarships or tuition waivers, which are typically provided from institutional or private funds, is the student must meet a GPA requirement. Especially for first-generation students or those coming from a background where implicit bias, unique family circumstances, or societal issues (such as poverty) exist, this GPA requirement can be a source of discouragement. In order to help encourage students in the pursuit of education or training, they should receive timely information about the importance of maintaining the best possible GPA.

As Rebecca Lake mentioned in her 2018 article that is linked here, dropping or failing a class could put a student’s sources of financial aid at risk. Each college must include in its publications information about minimum requirements for maintaining financial aid eligibility. As aid administrators work with students, it is incumbent on us to help make sure understanding exists about the importance of maintaining satisfactory academic progress.  In doing so, it is important to remember that terminology associated with the college process is almost like a foreign language to some students. If an individual has not been previously exposed to college, there is no personal history or context that helps make sense of the many requirements. So, as we seek to improve personal and college performance related to diversity, equity and inclusion, we must keep in mind that helping students achieve an understanding of the connected importance of GPA and renewal requirements factors in for many.

Nominations & Elections – Meet the candidates!


Elections for the next Board of Directors is opening, and we wanted to give you a brief introduction to your slate of candidates.   Here are some short introductions from each of them, and more details can be found on each candidate on the RMASFAA website: Candidate Information

Voting members remember to keep an eye out for the election link coming to your email soon!


Becca Dobry, UN-Kearney

I am honored to be nominated for candidacy for the position of President-Elect of RMASFAA.
I am running for President-Elect of RMASFAA as this association has played a vital role in helping me to become the leader that I am today, and I want to work towards giving others that same opportunity.


Tony Tanking – Benedictine College

I am honored and humbly accept the nomination for Vice-President of RMASFAA in the upcoming election.
Volunteering has always been a part of my life, as demonstrated by being actively involved in both state (KASFAA) and regional (RMASFAA) associations during the past 13 years. Serving on various committees and being involved in Summer Institute in 6 of his first 8 year in RMASFAA, including RMASFAA Summer Institute Chair in 2014 has been some of the most fulfilling experiences to date. Most recently, I completed the 3-year commitment as President of KASFAA.

Shannon Eskam – Casper College

It is with great honor that I accept the nomination of Vice-President Elect for RMASFAA. I have served as the Director of Student Financial Services at Casper College since 2016. Before moving into my current position I was the Assistant Director at NWCCD-Gillette College for two years. Having started in the financial industry, my transition into higher education has proved to be a perfect niche. I love the opportunities we have as financial aid administrators to help our students achieve academic and financial success. I have been actively involved in our state organization, WyASFAA, in multiple roles and served as President in 2018. I am currently a quad-chair for our 2021 RMASFAA conference. I look
forward to the opportunity to serve RMASFAA as Vice President Elect and thank you for your consideration.

Kelli Engelhardt – University of Providence

I am honored to be nominated for candidacy for Vice-President for RMASFAA.I have filled roles in the state association as president (elect and past-president as well), and Member-at-Large. I have served on the Training Committee for RMASFAA. I have been the Registration Co-chair/Chair, a faculty member, and now the Assistant Faculty Dean for Summer Institute. Next year I will fill the role of Faculty Dean, and I look forward to the challenge.  So many people in RMASFAA have helped me get to where I am, and it is my turn to give back to the organization. I would love to take the next step and be the Vice President of RMASFAA. I know I still have a lot to learn, but I am also willing to give back whatever I can to make RMASFAA continue to be a strong and valued organization for all of us.


Judy Anderson – Community College of Aurora

I am currently the Financial Aid Debt/Default Advisor & Financial Literacy Coordinator.   After all my years working on the backend of Financial Aid, I am finally working on the front line.
It has been a rewarding career and I look forward to branching out and taking on new responsibilities as the RMASFAA Secretary.  This will give me the opportunity to gain knowledge and understanding of our sister States in the RMASFAA organization.

Vanessa Martineau – Western Governors University

I am honored to be a nominee for the Secretary position on the RMASFAA Board of Directors. RMASFAA is a powerful force for good in our profession, and I would be thrilled to do more to support our important work. I am proud to serve as the Professional Development/Training Committee Chair for UASFAA and the Training Committee Chair for RMASFAA, as well as volunteering on a NASFAA Online Technology Review Group.


Jacquelyn Zeltinger – Nueta Hidatsa Sahnish College

 Jacquelyn is the Financial Aid director at Nueta Hidatsa Sahnish College and has been an active member in her state, regional, and national professional associations.  She has participated in Summer Institute and is currently a participant in the extended Leadership Pipeline.    Jacquelyn has been an energetic and enthusiastic participant and continues to be a great volunteer for RMASFAA.

Associate Delegate:

Nick Martinez – Inceptia

Mr. Martinez was a Financial Aid Director and spend fifteen years at the school level.  For the past nine years, Mr. Martinez has been serving school across RMASFAA as a trusted advisor & vendor partner.   Nick has a front-line understanding of the challenges facing financial aid offices and institutions as a whole and is prepared for any future challenges that may arise during this unique moment in time.
Nick has served on numerous boards and committees on the state and regional levels within the Mid-west.  MASFAA, RMASFAA, KASFAA, and TASFAA.  
Mr. Martinez has been serving during this time of transition and happily is willing to serve RMASFAA again. 

Robert Smith – ELM

At ELM Resources, Rob develops new relationships and maintains existing school partners in the western United States by helping them improve their private student loan process through comparison, certification and disbursement on the ELMOne platform.  He began his career in financial aid at Point Loma Nazarene University.  Rob held multiple roles with Educaid (now Wells Fargo), SallieMae, iHelp and Navient.  A graduate of Point Loma Nazarene University, Rob also holds his MBA in Finance from National University and his Teaching Credential from California State University, Fresno.  His wife Jody is a 4th grade teacher, and he has two adult children. Austin is a graduate student at University of Alaska, Fairbanks and Scott attends Shasta Community College in Redding, CA (when they return to in-person instruction).

Apply Today for the Leadership Pipeline Program!

The application for the 2021-2022 Leadership Pipeline class is now open on the RMASFAA website! It will remain open until July 12th. Participants will be notified of their selection by July 26, 2021.

Selected mentees will spend a twelve-month period engaging in leadership training, group discussion, and informational reading and exercises.

If you are interested in being a mentor for this program, please let Brenda know!!

Mentees are strategically paired with seasoned RMASFAA mentors and the mentee/mentor relationship is intended to enhance and solidify the experience in the program.

Program kicks off at the 2021 RMASFAA conference in Omaha, Nebraska and graduation will be in Utah at the 2022 RMASFAA conference.

If you have questions, please contact Brenda Haseman at bhaseman@sheridan.edu or 307.675.0203

Written by Jayson Matlock on behalf of the Diversity and Inclusion Committee.

Often in our field, we tend to be consumed by the various rules and regulations that govern our responsibilities as public servants. This intense focus on mastering our craft facilitates an environment for constant growth and adaptability that challenges us to give our full effort. This post is meant to emphasize another area of practice that Financial Aid Administrators should incorporate to promote access to education for an increasingly diverse population of students. 

From 2020 to 2060, the United States population is projected to grow by 79 million people (1). With this increase we will see more ethnic diversity reflected in the population we serve. More than ever, we should work to become more culturally aware, and implement policies and procedures that reflect the needs of these students while providing them the financial resources they need to succeed. 

We know that higher education is a vital tool for social and financial mobility. It has also been demonstrated that finances are a primary concern why students are unable to access education, or why they are not retained at the same level as their peers. Our education system has been established in a generalized structure that suggests a one size fits all approach. However, our students who come from different socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds may not be prepared with the same level of information or college preparedness as students who come from more privileged backgrounds. While these may be obstacles for access, we know that completion also presents inequities for our underserved students. According to the Institute for College Access, we can witness that minority students are acquiring greater student debt and having larger struggles in repayment after graduation (2).These same students may end up leaving their intended program due to the price of their education. It is time to increase momentum to make financial aid programs and college preparedness resources more educational and accessible for our underserved students, while also paving the path for a larger ethnically diverse population.

Often, underserved students fall through the cracks because they don’t know the true price of their education, or may not understand the terminology we use. They may also feel intimidated in their ignorance when those around them seem to comprehend everything going on. Additionally, they may be unaware of what questions to ask.  These are simple barriers for us to eliminate as administrators.

At many institutions, we have witnessed the development of staff or departments directly overseeing diversity, equity, and inclusion. These efforts have come in response to societal issues, increased digital awareness, the growth of our underserved populations, and the human need to connect and be included. We should partner with the resources that are available on our campuses, and devote time to developing relationships with our students through financial conversations.

This is the starting point for us to serve a more diverse population of students over the next few decades. We should take inventory of the financial and educational resources currently available at each of our institutions and build upon them. The following report, Advancing Diversity and Inclusion In Higher Education (5) is a great resource to learn more about being intentional while working with underserved students. However, there are plenty of free and available resources that can help us to become greater advocates.

College enrollments, especially during COVID-19, have been projected to decline, and for many students being able to afford their education is a primary concern (3). By focusing heavier on developing financial initiatives for our underserved students we may further increase enrollment at our institutions, promote equitable access to education, and be enriched by the various backgrounds and life experiences different from our own. 


  1. Demographic Turning Points for the United Sates: Population Projections for 2020 to 2060 (census.gov)
  2. https://ticas.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/classof2019.pdf
  3. https://www.insidehighered.com/admissions/article/2020/04/29/colleges-could-lose-20-percent-students-analysis-says
  4. https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/frontpage/pro-students/issues/roi-issue07.html
  5. https://www2.ed.gov/rschstat/research/pubs/advancing-diversity-inclusion.pdf

What is Implicit Bias?

Submitted by Beth Vollan on Behalf of the Diversity and Inclusion Committee

In today’s post from the Diversity and Inclusion Committee, my goal is to challenge all of us to learn about implicit bias and think about how our hidden biases can impact the way we interact with our students and colleagues.

As opposed to explicit bias that is intentional, implicit bias is often unconscious and can be contrary to our conscious and expressed beliefs (Cherry, 2020). For example, I may consciously believe that it is wrong to stereotype based on racial identity and, at the same time, hold unconscious beliefs that cause me to make assumptions about a student’s situation or abilities based on the student’s racial identity. Despite my conscious beliefs, I may be treating students differently based on unconscious beliefs that I don’t even know that I have.

If you have a few spare minutes, watch Implicit Bias/Concepts Unwrapped, an 8 minute video by the University of Texas-Austin McCombs School of Business that provides a quick tutorial on implicit bias and its impact.

So if implicit biases are unconscious, how can we identify that we have them? Harvard University’s Project Implicit offers a free online testing site to help individuals identify their implicit biases. The site has more than a dozen testing options including race, religion, and sexuality.

I hope you will find some time to take a test and learn about your own biases and to reflect on how those biases may be impacting your work.


Cherry, Kendra (2020, September 18). How Does Implicit Bias Influence Behavior? Explanations and Impacts of Unconscious Bias: verywellmind. https://www.verywellmind.com/implicit-bias-overview-4178401#:~:text=While%20explicit%20biases%20and%20prejudices,on%20a%20more%20unconscious%20level

Thoughts by Kevin Howe on behalf of the Diversity and Inclusion Committee!

As Financial Aid Administrators we strive to support student understanding of their financial commitments and possibilities as they seek funding for their college education.  This post highlights one community we serve and the challenges they overcome to be successful in higher education.  This short excerpt published in Liberal Education is a powerful reminder of the importance to be mindful of all students we serve:

Transgender individuals are more likely than the general population to be unemployed or homeless, and they face a great deal of discrimination in employment and housing. In addition, transgender people face unique expenses pertaining to health care—for example, costs associated with hormone treatments or gender confirmation surgeries—such that finances are likely to be a much greater concern for them than for the general population. Our data confirmed this higher concern for finances: nearly 19 percent of transgender students reported major concerns about financing their college education, as compared to 12 percent of the national sample overall, and some were unsure they would have enough funds to complete college. The proportion of transgender students facing major financial concerns was more than 50 percent higher than the nationally normed sample.

Two other variables reinforce these financial concerns. First, transgender students come from families with lower annual parental income. Whereas 56.3 percent of the nationally normed sample reported parental incomes of at least $75,000 annually, only 47.2 percent of transgender students did—a difference of about 9 percentage points. In addition, many transgender students may not be able to count on parental financial support for college if their parents take issue with their gender identity. Indeed, the proportion of transgender students (34.9 percent) who reported they will likely need to work full time during college was about 6 percentage points higher than that of the national sample (28.5 percent).

Second, transgender students receive financial aid at a higher rate than the national sample. More transgender students reported receiving Pell grants (32.8 percent versus 26.6 percent), need-based grants or scholarships (47.8 percent versus 36.6 percent), and work-study funding (35.4 percent versus 20.9 percent). More transgender students also received merit-based aid (60.7 percent versus 51.6 percent), which is especially encouraging given that the average high school academic performance of transgender students was slightly outpaced by the national average; 53.9 percent of transgender students had a high school grade point average of A- or higher, as compared to 58.7 percent of the national sample. Although these figures indicate that transgender students face a more challenging financial situation than their peers, the data also indicate that transgender students are somewhat more savvy in securing resources to make up for any gaps in funding.

Stolzenberg, E.B., Hughes, B. (2017). The Experiences of Incoming Transgendered College Students:  New Data on Gender Identity. Liberal Education, 103(2), 40-45. https://www.aacu.org/liberaleducation/2017/spring/stolzenberg_hughes