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Profiles in the Financial Aid Profession: Lee Carrillo from Central New Mexico Community College

April 28, 2011

Lee Carillo

Lou Murray: How long have you been at Central New Mexico Community College?

Lee Carrillo: I have been at CNM for 12 years.

Lou: What is your job’s focus?

Lee: I am focused on making sure we are in compliance and making sure that we are as automated as possible.   I am focused on making things as easy and fast as possible for our office, so that we can better serve the students. 

Lou: What would you say makes you most proud about your financial aid office?

Lee: I have a great team.  I believe I have one of the best teams around.  We are knowledgeable about our system and work well together.  We are extremely customer service oriented, and that’s the focus of our office.

Lou: Are there any special projects or initiatives that you are a part of?

Lee: Because of the budget restraints we have had in our state, and the issues with return of Title IV due to bad debt, we are working with our quality assurance team to see how we can better set up processes so our institution reduces the bad debt.  We have implemented several changes such as paying on attending hours vs. paying based on enrolled hours.  Since, CNM has 52 parts of terms we felt it best to pay students as classes started throughout the term.  This one change has altered student behavior and reduced the amount of students who owe federal funds and reduced the amount of student withdrawing from classes before they begin. 

Lou: What would you say has been your biggest challenge these past 12 months?

Lee: Budgets.  Budgets and being able to stay fully staffed is a challenge.  Making our executive administration understand why they cannot cut my staff is part of that.   New regulations are keeping us busier than usual and staff is needed to accomplish these changes. 

Lou: What makes your community college system unique?

Lee: It is our president, who has a directive for excellence and that we are here for our students.  We are here to help them in any way possible to make their time here be enjoyable and successful. 

Lou: What would you say are some current trends that you would find in financial aid?

Lee: Because of the economic down, we have had more students apply for financial aid, re-skilling, relearning.  We, actually, have had a 2,000 student increase = to about a 25% increase.

Lou: Do you have anyone in the industry that you would consider as a mentor?

Lee: Greeley Myers, Director of Financial Aid at New Mexico State University, and Dr. Eugene Padilla, Associate Vice President of Enrollment Management at CNM. When I first started, Greeley was a good mentor to me.  As I moved on to CNM, my inspiration of helping students changed; this was all due to Dr. Padilla. He was always concerned for the student.

Lou: What should schools focus on as far as the 3 year CDR (Cohort Default Rate)?

Lee: Schools need to individually decide how they are going to award loans.  This year, because of the default rate and changes to the CDR, we actually instituted students can no longer take 1-term loans anymore.   We were running into students that were taking all the money in one term, getting in trouble, and never came back.  So we felt we had to put restrictions on that type of borrowing.  Hopefully we will see students borrowing less, especially at our school.  Our tuition is very low.

Lou: What do you like most about your job?

Lee:  The fact that at the end of the day, we are helping people achieve their goals. And with that we have helped create productive citizens for our society.

Lou: What is something people don’t know about you?

Lee: I have always loved working on cars and getting my hands dirty.

Lou: What is your favorite TV show?

Lee: Barrette Jackson events, and Everything Sci-Fi.

Lou: Favorite movie?

Lee: I like the Star Wars and Star Trek stuff.

Lou Murray, Southwest Regional Director
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