In the Know – How the New CAFAA Membership Model Can Improve Student Success

In the Know – How the New CAFAA Membership Model Can Improve Student Success

We all know the feeling – working in Financial Aid can feel like you’re in a castle on a small island with its own strange language, gated behind stacks of paperwork and a moat of federal regulations.  Secret passwords made up of esoteric jargon and a limited understanding of what we do and why from many in our academic community can create a sense of isolation until those odd questions pop up from someone on the other side of campus.  We provide trainings and updates for our colleagues, go the extra mile, review student files with them and chat over speaker phone with advisors and students but we will always be asked to explain why a student with a 4.0 GPA (and a 50% completion rate) would ever be Ineligible for Aid, why we would require official transcripts for credits that won’t transfer anyway or why we’d be “punishing” an excellent student just because she’s attempted 180 credits.  It’s a constant struggle to build an understanding of the inner workings of financial aid, the nuances, the protocol and our ability to throw it all out the window with a little professional judgment and a whole lot of documentation.  There’s got to be a better way!

That’s where the new and fabulous CAFAA membership model comes in!  Now we can easily and inexpensively invite campus stakeholders to the inner fold of our community, offer the chance to gain important updates in a timely, formal manner, provide training across academic disciplines and better equip our colleagues to meet the many needs of our students.  Now that schools have the option to pay a flat institutional fee for CAFAA membership, we can add anyone on campus without paying an additional fee!  Here at Community College of Denver (CCD), for example, our CAFAA membership includes executive staff, deans, TRIO advisors and the Educational Opportunity Center (EOC).  Extending CAFAA membership to vital stakeholders outside of the Financial Aid Office is not just a fiscally responsible way to better serve our students.  It also helps others see the value of CAFAA, further supporting our own professional goals.

Khara O’Connell, EOC director at CCD, is a vocal champion for CAFAA’s new institutional membership model. She makes the connection between student success and an “in the know” staff when she testifies that, “As a financial aid resource for potential students, it is a huge benefit for [EOC] to be a part of CAFAA. We are invited to professional development opportunities and have access to a lot of financial aid updates as they happen. In the end, I think our membership will both benefit students and our financial aid colleagues, by increasing the number of professionals ‘in the know’ on financial aid issues. I think the new policy is great!”

We know students come to see the Financial Aid Office as a one-stop-shop for all their school-related questions.  They also bring their financial aid questions to other departments, making it imperative that we do what we can to keep all campus members “in the know.”  By allowing us to expand membership to anyone at our institutions, CAFAA is doing that for us!  I challenge you to approach a valued stakeholder on your campus, someone you’ve been hoping to make a meaningful connection with, and extend the invitation for them to join CAFAA.  What a great reason to build a professional connection and gain solid support – I’m confident you’ll find it goes a long way for your professional life, for your students and for your institution!


Shannon Webber

Assistant Director | Customer Service
Community College of Denver | Financial Aid Office

P: 303.352.5029 | F: 303.556.5458