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Profiles in the Financial Aid Profession: Terri Colley, Sam Houston State University

November 10, 2010


Terri Colley, Assistant Director of Financial Aid, Sam Houston State University (left), with Lou Murray, Regional Director, Nelnet Partner Solutions.

Lou Murray: How long have you been in financial aid?

Terri Colley: I have been here, in the Financial Aid Office at Sam Houston State University (SAM), for 10 years. My previous background was in banking.

Lou: What is your current job focus?

Terri: My primary focus is to make sure that the students and families are satisfied customers.  I, along with my area (loan and verification team), work hard to see that students are awarded in a timely manner.  It is our job to make sure that their money gets here as soon as possible.

Lou: What makes your campus unique?

Terri: While we are growing, with a population of approximately 17,200, SAM still has the “right size” campus atmosphere where everybody can feel like they know each other.  Our campus isn’t so large that the students feel like a number.  The classrooms are sized so students and professors can keep in touch.  And SAM is a pretty campus!

Lou: What has been your biggest work related challenge during the last 12 months?

Terri: The implementation of Banner, as well as the Direct Loan Program, has been challenging.  Initially, the Financial Aid office was stand-alone Banner.  As the rest of the university modules “go live,” the financial aid office will continue to adapt and change so all the information and data will work correctly.  Changes were also needed to convert everything to the Direct Loan Program.   The financial aid office strived–through emails, posting on our website, etc.–to make our current and future students aware of the new loan process.

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

Terri: Increase in loan debt with an emphasis on alternative loans.  This is a concern since the cohort default rates continue to rise industry wide.

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

Terri: We have always worked closely with high schools to bring early awareness to students and families.  The ability to text or discover new and alternative ways of communicating with students is important.  I would like to make contact with the students before they become 30 days past due.  If we can catch them sooner and let them know what their options are, I think that would help.  This would include talking to students about budgeting, financial wellness, and responsibility before they graduate and enter repayment.

Lou: What do you like most about our job?

Terri: I like dealing with students, as far as making sure that they are getting everything they need and are satisfied.  We see some families that may not have the best personal situation and are really struggling.  If I can assist them with their questions, helping to alleviate their frustrations and achieve their dream, then it becomes more than just a job.

Lou: Talk about your office and the folks you work with.

Terri: The office consists of approximately 30 employees, and our staff works hard.  But we also have fun together.  We put in time and commitment gearing up for registration.  There is a lot of paperwork and phone calls during those periods.  For a one-day period, in phone calls alone, we had over 1,400 calls, and there was no trail of frustration from our staff.  We truly give great customer service and do what needs to be done for our students.

Lou: Who has been your mentor?

Terri: Doug Wright (retired former Coordinator over the counselors) was my go-to guy.  Coming from banking with zero financial aid experience, I would go crazy with the questions.  Doug would always stay calm and patient.  He taught me a lot.

Lou: What is your favorite movie?

Terri: Field of Dreams.

Lou: What is your favorite pastime?

Terri: I’m a country girl–tinkering in the yard or fishing, just spending time with my guys (husband and two sons).  Definitely not shopping or anything like that.

Lou: Name one thing people most people don’t know about you.

Terri: What do people not know about me?  Hmmm…I was in a sorority in college.  I don’t seem like the sorority type, do I?

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