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Profiles in the Financial Aid Profession: Kent McGowan from the University of Montana, Missoula

April 1, 2011

Kent McGowan began his career in financial aid at LeTourneau University in TX. Twenty years later, he is still in the profession he loves and has logged over 4,600 miles via Colorado Christian University, Buffalo State College and now the University of Montana, Missoula, where he serves as the Director of Financial Aid.

Kent was interviewed by Don Buehrer, Nelnet regional Director for SWASFAA and RMASFAA.


Kent McGowan, Dirctor of Financial Aid, University of Montana, Missoula

Don: How did you select financial aid as your profession?

Kent: After I got my bachelor’s degree I spent a year as an admissions counselor for my alma mater.  My experience assisting students with aid questions and interacting with the aid office got me interested in trying my hand at financial aid.

Don: What major changes have you seen in financial aid during your years in the industry?

Kent: Technology – When I started 20 years ago packaging was still often done by hand.  Loan applications were manually certified and mailed to the lender. Pell vouchers were completed by filling in the bubble sheets on Part III of the Student Aid Report. Everything took so long.  If a student walked into your office wanting to start the application process if they were lucky they might have their loan in two months.  Now it is conceivable they could have their aid in a week.  Amazing!

Don: If you could change one financial aid regulation, what would it be and why?

Kent: I would remove the rules on Pell progression for a second scheduled Pell in one award year. I believe that Congress’ intent did not involve such a requirement.  It is onerous and if a school’s SAP policy is good then abuse of year round Pell shouldn’t be an issue.

Don: Who are/were your mentors?

Kent: I had the great pleasure of learning aid under Bill Rusk, formerly of Whitworth College and Letourneau University, now deceased.  He was in aid from the beginning.  There are other non-financial aid mentors that taught me a lot about being a good manager, but Bill taught me most of what I needed to know to be a successful aid administrator. He was a very humble and empathetic man.  Among other things he taught me not to live in fear of auditors.

Don: What is the most enjoyable part of your job?

Kent: Right now what brings me the most pleasure is challenging my staff to look at things with fresh eyes.  I love working with these people.

Don: Name one thing that most people do not know about you!

Kent: I have been singing in choirs and groups since the fourth grade.  Though I’m not currently doing any formal singing I still enjoy it immensely.  Anyone need a first tenor?

Don: How do you spend your time when you’re not working?

Kent: Life revolves around my teenage children and their sports, primarily travel hockey.  When not chauffeuring them or watching them play I enjoy reading, listening to music, watching TV and exploring Montana.

Don Buehrer, Regional Director (TX, KS, NE, SD, ND, MT, and UT), Nelnet Partner Solutions

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