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Profiles in the Financial Aid Profession: Caryn Pacheco, University of Oklahoma

July 26, 2010

  

Caryn Pacheco, Director of Financial Aid at the University of Oklahoma

Caryn has been the Director of Financial Aid at the University of Oklahoma since October 2007. Although the University of Oklahoma is known for its outstanding history in athletics, OU ranks first in the nation for the number of National Merit Scholars enrolled per capita. Click here to learn more about OU. 

Ron Hancock : Caryn, describe your role here at OU. 

Caryn: As Financial Aid Director, I’m here to ensure students receive their aid in an efficient and effective manner. I also make sure we’re in compliance with all the regulations and represent our office in various meetings on campus. I also do quite a bit of outreach activities with the high schools. 

Ron: How did you get started in financial aid? 

Caryn: I started as a student worker in 1983 at Cameron University. I continued working in the office and then decided to begin working full-time in the financial office there in 1987. I was there for 20 years before coming to OU. 

Ron: Did you have anyone you’d consider a mentor when you were first starting out in financial aid? 

Caryn: Sheila Fugett was definitely my mentor. She was my first boss at Cameron before she left for the University of Central Oklahoma. Sheila is someone I always turned to for advice and someone I considered my role model in financial aid. 

Ron: What’s been your biggest challenge in the past 12 months? 

Caryn: Our conversion to Banner has been our biggest challenge, along with the transition to Direct Lending. Although we haven’t fully transitioned to Direct Lending, we are making that change with a very positive attitude and embracing the positive aspects we see for our office and students. We’ve been doing FFELP for this summer term and have been winding down that process this past week. We’ve originated over 300 direct loans and everything seems to be going well so far. 

Ron: How has your office been impacted by the recent budget crunch? 

Caryn: We’ve had some staff members retire or leave and we’ve not filled those positions. Other areas of our office have absorbed their duties, so we’re truly having to do more with less these days and continuing to reduce our expenses. One of the biggest shortfalls we’ve had was when we lost our school as lender revenue that funded scholarships for many deserving students. 

Ron: What do you see on the horizon for financial aid? 

Caryn: I’m hoping we can see more automation and simplification. Can you imagine if we can really get the data match with the IRS, how much simpler that would be for families and for aid offices in the verification process? 

Ron: What advice would you give to a person entering the financial aid profession? 

Caryn: Find a friend and a mentor! Develop relationships with other colleagues in the profession and also speak with other schools who are like yours or who use the same software systems. 

Ron: What are some of your interests outside of financial aid? 

Caryn: I love being outside and working in our vegetable and flower gardens. We have a “grand-puppy” who we love to spend time with. She’s a little orange Pomeranian named Tequila. After a long day at the financial aid office, I can go home to Tequila! 

Ron: What do you like most about being at the OU campus? 

Caryn: I like the history and traditions of the university. I really enjoy the campus with all the flowers and unique architecture. I can walk across campus and hear Boomer Sooner play at the top of every hour from the Union. 

Ron: I almost got a little emotional listening to your answer. It’s great to be a Sooner! 

Ron Hancock, Southwestern Regional Director

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