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Profiles in the Financial Aid Profession: Richard Bishop, Central Connecticut State University

March 3, 2011

Kimber Decker: What are you most proud of within your financial aid office?

Richard Bishop:  There are two things that stand out. The first one is the effort and effectiveness that the staff put forth each and every day to assist our students, and the second is that the financial aid office of CCSU really is a model of efficiency in which the work is performed.  The staff embraces change to meet the needs and desires of our students as each new digital piece of equipment has come into our lives.

Kimber: What has been the biggest challenge for your office during the past 12 months?

Rich: Our biggest challenges have been similar to every other financial aid office–the toll the economy has taken on our students, parents and families.  Every day there are some horrific stories of what families are going through, and that just hurts you.

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

Rich: Keeping pace with the technology that students want us to use to communicate or to get them up-to-date with what they may need to do.  We will most likely continue to use two different methods: one for the digital savvy and one for those that prefer not to be so cutting edge. 

Financial Aid Offices will see increased workloads and less staff, and how we handle the work in a timely and effective manner is important to our students and universities.

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

Rich: Being a university in DL since year one, we did not have to go through a transition. Most of the new DL schools have made the transition successfully and are probably well into the loan cycle. The one looming issue that they may be worried about–and still gets some of us old timers–is reconciliation.  Once you get down your reconciliation process it all goes pretty smooth and easy.

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

Rich: I have been very fortunate to know and work with many financial aid professionals in many different regions.  When I worked in financial aid in Massachusetts I got to know Patricia Hurley, Wally Moulton, and Grant Curtis, who all helped a young person uncertain if this financial aid stuff was really going to stay around.  And when I moved to Indiana, Joe Russo was my boss, who has become a good friend and colleague and has kept me balanced with work and life.

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

Rich: We need to look at default prevention as knowing our student population, retention, student success and financial literacy.     We can really begin during the recruitment process with a discussion about what the total indebtedness may be for a college degree.  If we take the time to assist students with understanding their desired and or potential  career choice, and future earnings for that career after college, and how they will pay for debt that they incur.  

Educating students about making wise personal financial decisions will help them throughout college and their lifetimes.

Kimber: When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Rich: I went to school looking forward to working in the area of accounting and investments, ended up writing computer programs, and began working in the area of financial aid, which has become a very enjoyable career and profession.

Kimber: What do you like most about your job?

Rich: I like working on a university campus. It is a great environment. The interaction with students, parents, faculty and staff all make a university a great place to be.  There are seldom two days in a row that are alike. You start the day with certain expectations, but there is always something that comes up that needs immediate attention. When the unexpected matter is taken care of, you go back to doing what you hoped to accomplish for the day, but then there will be something else that diverts you. At the end of the day there are always accomplishments; they may be small to us but are really big and important to others.

Kimber: What is your favorite book, movie or food?

Rich: Don Quixote–it is a great book to teach that it is really okay to dream, to look at things differently; however, you also need to remember to stay somewhere near reality.

Kimber: What is your favorite television show? 

Rich: I really do not have a favorite television show.  I do like shows that make me laugh.  A laugh a day is good medicine and makes you feel good; it is what we should do more often.

Kimber Decker, Northeast Regional Director (CT, DC, DE, MD, NJ, PA), Nelnet Partner Solutions

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