The North Dakota Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators had an early transition of leadership this year when Nathan Stratton stepped down as President several months early to assume the position of Director of Financial Aid of the North Dakota University System (NDUS). Shelley Blome, Director at the North Dakota State College of Science was serving as President-elect and stepped up to begin her term in office four months early.
The NDUS director position is a different, less common type of financial aid administration position, located in the offices of the State Board of Higher Education at the North Dakota State Capitol complex. The team (which includes Assistant Director Gina Padilla and Financial Aid Assistant Sheila Tibke) works with other members of the Chancellor’s office staff to administer $40,000,000 in state-funded student financial student every biennium.
The team at the NDUS office administers the North Dakota State Grant, a need-based program for undergraduate students which will provide approximately $21,000,000 in aid this biennium. There are also several merit based undergraduate grant programs, including the North Dakota Scholars Program, awarded to students with the top ACT scores in the state and the Academic and Career and Technical Education Scholarships, which are also awarded to students with the highest level of academic achievement in the state. These programs, combined with robust state support for higher education combine to make North Dakota a great place to attend college.
NDUS financial aid also administers several major loan forgiveness programs for teachers and STEM professionals. The office also supports professional graduate students in the fields of optometry, dentistry, and veterinary medicine through a group of professional student exchange programs. These programs are critical to maintaining a healthy supply of professionals in those fields North Dakota, as the state does not have professional schools in those areas.
One of the most rewarding parts of the job is working with the financial aid offices at the 11 schools in the North Dakota University System. The system office has a support role and assists from time to time with policy and compliance activities, and supports the state legislature and its congressional delegation by providing information regarding student financial aid as needed, and advocating for the programs that serve North Dakota students.
Serving as President of NDASFAA was a hugely rewarding experience for me. The board and members of the association are a dedicated group of fine individuals that helps make students successful every day throughout our state.