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Profiles in Financial Aid: Raul Lerma from El Paso Community College

May 2, 2012

Raul Lerma, Interim Executive Director of Financial Aid, El Paso Community College

Lou Murray:  How long have you been in Financial Aid?  

Raul Lerma:  26 years. The majority of my years were at The University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP).

Lou:  And now, here you are at El Paso Community College (EPCC). 

Raul:  I hit a year here at EPCC in February. Time flies!

Lou:  What is your focus at EPCC?

Raul:  I am the current Interim Executive Director of Financial Aid at EPCC, managing financial aid for EPCC’s five campuses.

Lou:  I know UTEP and EPCC have always worked closely together, with great interaction between the financial aid offices. How different are things at the 2-year college from your days at the 4-year university?

Raul:  It is not the same at the 2-year institution. It requires a unique mindset with different types of goals. We administer programs here that are unlike the programs I was used to at UTEP.  Working with five campuses has also been an adjustment.  Plus, I am now working with Veteran Affairs and scholarships. At UTEP, I did not administer either of those programs from my office.

Despite differences, there has not been much of a learning curve. I was familiar with EPCC and the staff since we have a consortium agreement between EPCC and UTEP.  The consortium agreement brings a unique process for both ends as far as transferring over the student. Both institutions use the Banner system, so that also made the transition much easier for me.

Lou:  What are you most proud of regarding your Financial Aid office?

Raul:  The staff – Fortunately, I worked with most of them in my previous role at UTEP.  We have low turnover here; our staff is very established. The management team is supportive. We work hard to serve students and families and work well with our school districts.

Lou:  What have been the biggest challenges for you during your first year, here?

Raul:  The changes… Not just my role, but especially industry changes such as Pell limit, Ability to Benefit (ATB)… it is and will be a challenge.  Budget cuts at the state level haven’t helped.

Lou:  What makes EPCC unique from other schools?

Raul:  Certainly our population and location makes us unique, being on the Texas Boarder. Our campus consists of a large number of first generation and non-traditional students.  We serve military students. These three elements make our experience a little more unique.

Lou:  Are there any primary or common trends you see in Financial Aid?

Raul: I think you see more people who are better aware of financial aid. Students ask more questions and parents seem more involved and educated.  There is a priority for outreach and getting the message out there.  I give some of that credit to the cooperative relationship we have with our local schools.

Lou:  Who in Financial Aid would you consider your mentor?

Raul:  Oh, a number of “ol Texas icons” come to mind:  Earl Hudgins & Ronnie Barns (Panhandle Plains Student Loan Center), Arnold Trejo (formerly at Texas A&M University), Rob Sheridan (University of Houston, retired), Henry Garcia (Del Mar Community College).  I consider Linda Gonzalez-Hensgen (Vice President of Student Services at EPCC) a mentor, for sure.

Lou:  What did you want to be when you grew up?

Raul:  I wanted to be a Financial Aid Director, of course <chuckle>.  Growing up?  I wanted to be a fireman.  As I got older, I wanted to be a teacher.

Lou:  What do you enjoy reading?  Have you read any good books lately?

Raul:  I like books from best-selling authors like Tom Clancy and Dan Brown.

Lou:  What’s your favorite movie?

Raul:  The Godfather is a good one.

Lou:  Can you share something that your industry peers probably don’t know about you?

Raul:  I have tattoos!

Lou:  No Way!

Raul:  I have two!  I got my first one when my daughter turned 18 – we got tattoos together.  One is a Celtic cross made with the initials of the “women in my life”, and the other is the Chinese symbol for father.

Lou Murray, Southwest Regional Director, Nelnet Partner Solutions

One Comment leave one →
  1. Abdulmalik YUSUF, permalink
    May 7, 2012 10:48 am

    This is a very good job that has reward here and hereafter. Nevertheless, how could you people assist third world countries with this educational aids.

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