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Profiles in the Financial Aid Profession: Brad Barnett, President-Elect, Southern Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (SASFAA)

June 2, 2010
 
 
 

Brad Barnett and wife, Sara. Brad serves as Senior Associate Director of Financial Aid at James Madison University as well as holds the position of President-Elect for SASFAA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dana Kelly:  What are you most proud of with your financial aid office?

Brad Barnett: The team we have. Working in a Financial Aid Office of over 20 people on two different floors presents many challenges, especially in the high volume, high stress world that we all live in. However, we worked hard to foster a true team environvment and it is a blessing to see people pull together to do such great work for our students. We have a group of folks who really care about our students and strive to serve them, and each other, at a very high level.

Dana Kelly:  What has been the biggest challenge for your office over the past 12 months?

Brad Barnett: Without a doubt the increased “need” we saw in 2009-10. Between changes made by Congress to the EFC formula that lowered many EFC’s and then the large number of professional judgment appeals we received for job losses, as a whole the EFC’s in 2009-10 were lower than ever. Consequently, for the first time ever we ran out of state grant money before all of the eligible students were awarded. It was the perfect storm. (Lower EFC’s by Congress and the downturn in the economy.)

Dana Kelly:  Are there any primary or coming trends that you see in the financial aid office?

Brad Barnett: I think the increased need level we saw in 2009-10 will continue to be an issue in the future. The trend is lower EFC’s based on changes to the formula and it will take a few years for economic issues and unemployment of many of our families to rebound. As a result, we have had to seriously re-evaluate our packaging policies and how we award our limited grant dollars.

Dana Kelly:  Do you have any tips for schools that are transitioning to Direct Lending?

Brad Barnett: First and foremost, I suggest finding a mentor school who uses the same software platform that you do. This was probably the biggest asset in our conversion from FFELP to DL in the summer of 2009. Being able to speak the same software language with another school who went through the conversion before we did helped us avoid some mistakes that could have made the switch more difficult. With their help, our conversion was a relatively quick and smooth process.

Dana Kelly:  Who within the financial aid community has been your mentor?

Brad Barnett: That’s a tough question. I’m not sure I have one mentor. Over the years I have been blessed to work with some wonderful people in the financial aid world. I have picked up bits and pieces of information from each of them. I’m always looking to learn and improve my skills, and I have found that most financial aid folks are more than willing to lend their expertise to their peers. It’s a fabulous community.

Dana Kelly:  Name one thing that many people do not know about you.

Brad Barnett: I lived in a tent for part of my childhood. Yep, poor as poor coud be, but the lessons I learned through that experience have carried over into my adulthood and are part of the reason I am who I am today.

Dana Kelly, Southern Regional Director (VA, TN, NC, SC and KY)

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