Profiles in Financial Aid Profession: Laura Coponiti, SWASFAA President and Assistant Financial Aid Director at the University of Science & Arts of Oklahoma
How long have you been at The University of Science & Arts of Oklahoma?
I have been at the university since 1992, and I started in financial aid in ’95.
What is your job’s focus?
As the Assistant Financial Aid Director, I am responsible for applying, balancing and reporting Title IV, institutional, and foundation funds. I complete federal, state, and institution reports and surveys. I pull down the student aid reports and send corrections after they have been verified. I also assist with students and parents. I work in a small office so I guess you could say all duties as assigned. The overall focus it getting aid to the students.
What would you say makes you most proud about your financial aid office?
There are only four of us in the office and our newest employee has been there over 10 years. We are very organized. So, if we get a student aid report today, and it’s ready, we will package it today. We don’t do weekly processes. We do them daily. This keeps us up to date on our packaging and helps us avoiding pile ups. At peak times, we might be a day or two behind, but we usually have everything packaged that can be.
Are there any special projects or initiatives that you are a part of?
We are working on keeping the students informed of all the changes going on, like two Pells in one year. We are getting ready to send out a lot of information, once we get the final word on that, to make sure students are informed and up to date.
What would you say has been your biggest challenge these past 12 months?
I guess the biggest challenge has been for our Direct Loan person, adjusting from FFELP to DL. Our software was not quite up to date (Sungard PowerFaids), and there have been a few issues with that. And of course, reconciling Direct Loans.
What makes your college unique?
We are the only 4 year public liberal arts school in Oklahoma. We are a small campus so you have a very intimate, private, liberal arts-feel, but at a public price.
What would you say are some current trends that you would find in financial aid?
I think the trend of the rising default rate is concerning. Part of it is confusion, as the students don’t know where their loans are being held. We are trying to educate them on whom their lenders are, and that they might have more than one at a time.
Do you have anyone in the industry that you would consider as a mentor?
Sherry (Foster) Hudson (recently retired from Durant, OK) was the one that got me involved in volunteering. She was the first one that asked me to run for an office for the Oklahoma Association. From there, it just went from one committee, to an officer position, and so on. As far as Financial Aid, I have always been amazed at the wealth of knowledge Pam McConahay had and her willingness to share it with all of us.
What do you like most about your job?
I like that it is never boring, always changing, and challenging. I also enjoy working with and getting to know the students.
What is something people don’t know about you?
I married my high school sweet heart and we are celebrating our 25th anniversary this year, in August.
What is your favorite past-time?
I enjoy attending sporting events and being involved with my church.
How is it going with SWASFAA, as President? ‘Any special initiatives taking place?
We are really just getting started. The committees are all working hard. In regards to continuing education, we are trying to do more in and for the individual states , by being more visual. We are exploring webcasting and other initiatives. We want to show them how we can help them and continue to be their voice with NASFAA.