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Profiles in the Financial Aid Profession: Lori Vedder from the University of Michigan-Flint

August 17, 2011

Lori Vedder, Director of Financial Aid, University of Michigan-Flint

Anne: What are you proud of with your Financial Aid Office?

Lori Vedder: I am undoubtedly most proud of my entire staff!  Many of them have been with the University for many years and have remained loyal to the financial aid profession.  Simply put, they know their stuff.  There have been times when we found ourselves questioning if we implemented a new regulation or program change correctly.  Then, we attend training or listen in on a webinar only to be reassured we got it right!  That provides all of us a feeling of trust and confidence in one another .

Anne: What has been the biggest challenge for your office over the past 12 months?

Lori: The biggest challenge our office has faced over the past 12 months is likely similar to that of many aid offices; keeping abreast of and addressing and implementing what feels like non-stop final regulations coupled with the increase in eligible aid applicants.   Seems like one thing snowballs into another resulting in new software releases to accommodate the regulations on top of it all.  It can feel like a vicious circle.   But, we accepted a long time ago that it comes with the profession.  We rely on each other and our colleagues to get through such times.  It’s recognized nationally, Financial Aid Professionals are great at sharing and learning from one another.  Not a better family of colleagues can be found than in this profession!

Anne: Now that the DL transition is in its second year, what are your thoughts, concerns and what do you see as future challenges?

Lori:The profession is in its second year of the Direct Loan transition. Having been a year one DL school back in the 90’s our campus was impacted very minimally.  However, I heard the initial fears and concerns of those who did make the transition and can understand fully where they were coming from.  I believe many things that were of concern going into the switch have been resolved and most schools are feeling more confident about their responsibilities in DL.    If the servicers can communicate regularly and clearly with the students whose loans they service and the other loan reporting issues can be resolved then this too shall pass and become the norm for all of us.  Of more concern to me now are the recent deficit reduction changes to the federal loan subsidy and repayment incentives.   Will this type of action become a trend?  Will this continue and eventually impact undergraduate loan subsidies as well?  Student borrowing is skyrocketing and I personally fear the loan indebtedness students and families take on these days.  I think aid offices need more control on how much and when a student can borrow.  I don’t know that I will ever see that day, but something has to be done to control this national student loan debt.  There is a lot of concern about it nationally.  Unfortunately, nothing seems to be happening fast enough.  Perhaps giving more say to the aid offices would help reduce the deficit in some way. 

Anne:  Thoughts about Default preventions and rising defaults rates?

Lori: Communicate, communicate, and communicate!  Don’t wait to begin raising greater awareness amongst your students and other campus constituents.  Default is a serious matter not just for aid offices, but for    students who find themselves on the brink of it!  I highly recommend starting a Default Aversion program on campus to colleges and universities that haven’t already launched one.  Do not wait for those 3-year CDR’s to be released!   Communicating to students early on is imperative.  A plan needs to include some financial management, smart borrowing tips, retention efforts, and keeping students on track to graduate, realistic employment expectations, knowledge of repayment options and where to seek help if one finds themselves unable to begin repayment.  It really takes the whole campus to provide a solid plan.

Anne: You are the current President of the Michigan Student Financial Association (MSFAA) —what has been challenging and rewarding about this position?

Lori: As the current MSFAA President the challenges have been minimal.  The rewards are many.  Balancing the Presidency and the additional responsibilities that come with it, my Director’s position at the University of Michigan-Flint, and making sure I continue to fulfill my roles as wife and mother can be a juggling act at times.  Fortunately for me I have a great staff, a supportive supervisor and a very supportive family.  We all pull together to make it happen.  The additional travel and interaction with other aid professionals have been perks.  The wider one casts their nets the better professionals we become.  I have built many new friendships, I have become more cognizant of other colleges and universities both in and outside of Michigan and have been asked to engage and advise agencies that I may not have otherwise.  Michigan is fortunate to have a great MSFAA Board who has worked diligently on the goals I laid out upon accepting the gavel.  I am very excited to see our visit to the Capitol to talk shop with our legislators come to fruition.  This will be the first time MSFAA has attempted this and I am proud to be part of it.

 Anne: What are some of the volunteerism roles and or professional affiliations you have had in the Midwest region (MASFA) and Michigan ( MSFAA)?

Lori: Over the past few years I have been actively involved in both MSFAA and the Mid-West Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (MASFAA).  I have served MSFAA as a 4-year Public Sector Representative, the Vice-President and the President-Elect.  It has been a wonderful group of professionals to work and grow with.  I first served as the MASFAA Board Secretary under then President Rick Shipman.  That year was a turning point in the opportunities I was given to build relationships outside of Michigan.  That same year I had the opportunity to represent MASFAA at the NASFAA Leadership Training in Washington, D.C.  That was an extraordinary experience!  Since then I have served as the Professional Development Chair, the Awards Committee Chair, and State Representative from Michigan and was recently elected to a two year position as the MASFAA Vice-President.  It is true Financial Aid Professionals no matter where you go are all the same, supportive, collegial and just wonderful, sharing and kind hearted people. 

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

Lori: I have had so many mentors within the financial aid community I am afraid I would miss listing someone.  So many aid professionals have played an important role in my understanding of financial aid and development as a director. From all the 15 Four-Year Public University Financial Aid Directors in Michigan, my University of Michigan colleagues, the Michigan Student Financial Aid Association (MSFAA) family, MASFAA colleagues to many others on the University of Michigan-Flint campus some who have come and gone; they all know who they are and I thank all of you for the knowledge and support you have provided me over the years! 

Anne: What do you like most about your job?

Lori: What I like most about my job is knowing that in some way I am giving back.  Helping students attend college and realizing the impact of their education on our communities is very rewarding.

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

Lori: Believe it or not I wanted to be a child psychologist!  Sometimes students will ask why I work in financial aid with a psychology background.  I have to tell them, I use it every day!

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

Lori: While I certainly enjoy reading a good book or seeing a good movie, I have to say a nice dinner out with good company trumps them both.  Of course there are days I come home from the office and look for the old comfort foods like homemade pot pies or meatloaf.  The foods Mom use to make.

Anne: Name one thing that many people do not know about you?

Lori: Many people have met my husband Michael and youngest daughter Madison, as they somehow strategically plan part of their summer vacation around my trips to the NASFAA conference.  What many people don’t know is that we also have 25 year old twins, Kristin and Ian.   So far we have survived putting two through college, so I often share with parents that I can appreciate their concern of “how are we going to pay for this?”  Letting families know I connect in this manner seems to set the tone as I begin my financial aid presentations.

Anne:  What is your favorite TV Show:

Lori: We don’t watch a lot of television these days unless it is Michigan Football or Red Wing Hockey, but if I think back to my childhood, I think it was the Saturday night version of Batman in the mid-sixties.  One of my older sisters and I had matching Batman pajamas.  Yeah we were cool!  We would settle down on the floor in front of the console TV with our “PJs” on, our snack in hand and sing the theme song every time it played, including those “Wham, Bam and Pows!”  Truth be told, it probably had more to do with spending that special time with my “big sister” than the show itself.

Thanks Lori and continued success with your presidency and your institution.

Anne Watson, Midwest Regional Director for Nelnet Partner Solutions

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