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Profiles in the Financial Aid Profession: Scott Moore, Houston Community College System

June 11, 2010

 

 

Scott Moore, Director of Financial Aid for Houston Community College

 

 Lou Murray: Scott, I’ve known you for quite a while now. Let’s go back in “Financial Aid time.” Please share your background.

Scott Moore: I started at the University of Houston and was there for about 12-13 years.  I then went to work at the University of St. Thomas as Assistant Director for three years.  I consulted for Peoplesoft for four years as an Implementations Specialist.  I then went back to St. Thomas as Dean for Financial Aid for five years.  I am currently the Director of Financial Aid at Houston Community College (HCC).

Lou: I imagine things must have been quite different for you when you moved from a private university to a multi-campus, two-year community college system.

Scott: Huge difference, yes.  We are a much larger institution with a different population of students.  Very diverse–urban, non-traditional, returning students; just a completely different type of institution. 

Lou: You have campuses all over the city.  Do you have staff everywhere as well?

Scott: I’m Director of System Financial Aid, and there are twenty-five district staff employees that report to me.  The campuses report to me through a dotted line (i.e., they report to me on financial aid by reporting on customer service to a Dean of Student Service at their respective campus).  The day-to-day operations are not managed by me but the financial aid operations are. 

Lou: Your Peoplesoft experience and systems skill set must have factored in considerably on your career path. 

Scott: Yes, it has.  I got into the role with Peoplesoft by doing an implementation of the product at the University of St. Thomas, and it started a whole new path through consulting. 

Lou: As Director of Financial Aid for Houston Community College Systems, what is your job’s focus?

Scott: My primary focus is setting policy, procedure, and planning of financial aid for Houston Community College. 

Lou: As you entered your current position and environment, did you find your self making immediate changes regarding this focus?

Scott: We looked at structural issues within the department.  Most of my attention has been on system issues and, of course, the two significant financial aid changes with year-round Pell and Direct Lending. 

Lou: While you will soon be approaching your one-year anniversary at HCC (August 2009), what are some of your proudest accomplishments to date?

Scott: I have automated a couple of processes that were manual, like mass-packaging and letter generation, that will increase our efficiency and productivity.  We are finessing our mass-packaging and automating the recalculation of how we do our Pell Grants.  Direct Lending is a big project.  We are not live yet. 

Lou: Considering your experience with Peoplesoft and where you are now with implementation, how do you predict things will be in the DL world?  Easier?

Scott: On one hand, yes.  What I try to focus on with my staff [are the] positives in relation to change and not the change itself.  Change is scary, but there are some immediate trade-offs when you go to Direct Lending. First, the amount of customer service time we spend trying to direct students to a lender without suggesting a lender–because we can’t–is now gone.  That’s cut out.  Community colleges may have a slightly bigger challenge in pointing the student to the right lender/servicer information.  Initially, my staff had some reluctance to opening up to the idea of DL, but they are on board with it.  I think the reluctance came when we initially started to go DL because it was not yet mandated.  With the mandate out, it certainly takes the reluctance out, because we don’t have a choice but to move forward, and we will.

Lou: Speaking of change, would you say the projects and industry changes have been your biggest challenges over the last 12 months?

Scott: Actually, the bigger challenge, and something I also consider a bit of an accomplishment, is the increase in student volume at the community college.  Our Pell program is up 125% from last year.  Our overall enrollment is up 15%, but our financial aid application pull is up 70%.  Initial loading of ISIRs for 2011 is up about 90%.  We’re busy.

Lou: Certainly the economy and job market have may have contributed.

Scott: Yes.  Speaking of job market, I’m hiring a financial aid counselor, and I’m getting a lot of applicants with master’s [degrees] and doctoral candidates.  It’s interesting.  Usually, we would see a number of under qualified applicants due to minimal FA experience, etc.  This year, I have seen a lot of highly educated applicants, perhaps from increases in job loss.

Lou: Do you have any tips for schools that are transitioning to Direct Lending or things that have been helpful for you?

Scott: Well, I’ve consulted with two schools transitioning from FFELP to DL.  It is a relatively simple transition, at least in Peoplesoft.  I think the biggest obstacle, depending on your system and how it is set up, deals with aggregate aid, packaging, and making sure DL and FFELP are tied to the same aggregates.

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

Scott: Robert Sheridan at the University of Houston – Downtown.  I have a lot of colleagues that I rely on, like Anne Walker at Rice University, Linda Ballard at Texas Southern University, and Ralph Perri at Texas A&M University at Kingsville, to name a few.  But my mentor, that’s Rob.

Lou: Where do you think schools should focus their efforts with regard to default prevention strategies given the industry’s move to a 3-year CDR model?

Scott: Student budgeting and financial literacy, up front counseling, debt counseling prior to students incurring the debt.  And then, I think schools really need to evaluate their retention practices and ways to improve retention rates as a means of protecting their default rates. 

Lou: Now the fun stuff…when you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Scott: My major was theater, and I always wanted to be an actor from the time I was 11 years old until the time I realized I didn’t have talent.  (Laugh)

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

Scott: I met Harry Truman when I was six. 

Scott Moore (right) with President Harry Truman

 

Lou: What do you like most about your job?

Scott: I like that I will never be bored at my job.  There are lots of challenges. 

Lou: What is your favorite movie?

Scott: Pillow Talk

Lou: What is your favorite food?

Scott: Thai food.

Lou: What is your favorite television show?  

Scott: 30 Rock.

Lou Murray, Southwest Regional Director (TX, NM)

One Comment leave one →
  1. November 13, 2010 11:23 am

    well of course community colleges are part of a good educational system too ~*:

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