The Wisconsin Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators is a non-profit organization that provides support to financial aid administrators and other agencies involved in the administration of financial aid programs in Wisconsin’s postsecondary educational institutions.
The WASFAA Blog
The WASFAA Blog contains updates from the WASFAA President, highlights committee activities and member profiles, and provides articles written by members and guests.
By: Ka Lia Smith, UW-Stevens Point
As WASFAA and WACRAO members continue to plan what I am sure will be a wonderful and successful fall 2016 joint conference in Milwaukee, I thought of no two better colleagues to interview for We Are WASFAA than UW-Stevens Point’s own tandem team of Leah Rose and Tiffany Firkus. Leah and Tiffany, Enrollment Services Specialists for UW-Stevens Point’s Enrollment Services Center, started on the first day of the fall 2013 semester and have greatly assisted faculty, staff, and students since with both enrollment and financial aid questions.
Ka Lia Smith (KLS): What is one thing you enjoy most about your role as an Enrollment Services Specialist?
Leah Rose (LR): I enjoy the fast-paced moments because we have the ability to shift gears quickly in our office. It is also challenging and makes the time fly. At any moment we can be bombarded by live, phone and email inquiries. The great part about our campus is that so many are student centered. In keeping, our goal is to serve students’ needs appropriately and quickly if we can.
Tiffany Firkus (TF): The most rewarding part of my job is seeing students succeed. Majority of the time, if students are in our office, it is because they have a problem. When students overcome their problem(s), whether it be academic, financial, or personal, it feels like a success for me.
KLS: You work very closely in tandem with another Enrollment Services Specialist. What are some things you appreciate the most about working so closely with someone on a daily basis?
LR: What is so great about having a counter-part like Tiffany is that we have a like mind in our customer/student services culture. When things become busy and overwhelming we rely on each other to carry the load. We grew into our roles at the same time so we have a great deal of empathy and understanding of student, faculty and staff needs. When either of us learn something new or come across a new resource we are willing to share that information to make us a more valuable resource.
TF: I appreciate having Leah for so many reasons. Enrollment Services is an evolving department. Policies, procedures, and responsibilities are constantly changing. Enrollment Services also troubleshoots for students, faculty, and staff. I’m grateful to have someone so reasonable and open-minded for support and guidance as questions arise.
KLS: What surprises you the most about financial aid?
LR: What I was most surprised about is the complicated nature of financial aid processing and procedures. Just when I think I understand one facet, a special situation comes along and it changes my understanding.
TF: Although I wouldn’t say this surprises me, there is a lack of financial knowledge among college students. I hope that parents, instructors, or university departments take time to encourage financial literacy. This would include reading a billing statement, balancing an account, budgeting, basic loan knowledge, etc.
KLS: This fall's conference is being hosted by both WACRAO and WASFAA. As someone who works closely with enrollment services and financial aid, what are some similarities between the two services? What are some differences?
LR: The similarities lie in that they are so closely tied together and that all students are affected by enrollment and a very high number of students are affected by financial aid. Both areas can cause stress if students do not have a thorough understanding of aspects of each. Also, students seem to be willing to learn about each, but need a place to go and people to see when they have questions. Many times a situation in enrollment causes questions about financial aid. The reverse is also true. Generally, enrollment relies on specialists having knowledge about registration and degree requirements. Interaction and collaboration is needed from other academic departments, advisors and faculty in other offices to meet the students’ needs. Financial aid is different in that it is more of a self-contained area that relies more heavily on federal and state governmental entities and compliance issues.
TF: Enrollment and Financial Aid are extremely interconnected. Changes to the number of credits, dates of enrollment, and student type are all enrollment issues that may, and typically do, prompt financial aid questions and/or changes. While the two services are very connected, enrollment offers a very academic perspective.
KLS: What do you like to do when you are not at work?
LR: When I am not on work I spend time with my family and up north at the lake. I am pursuing a graduate program, so when I have classes, my time is very limited. I love to cook, travel and watch The Godfather.
TF: When I’m not at work, I enjoy spending time with my friends and family, eating, and working on jigsaw puzzles that are 1000 pieces or more.
Leah and Tiffany are just one great example of how two people with different backgrounds, strengths, and hobbies (The Godfather vs. jigsaw puzzles) can come together to make a great team and have an impact far beyond their reach. Similarly, I am sure that WASFAA and WACRAO will come together and with their joined forces, make the fall 2016 conference one that people will not soon forget.