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Profiles in Financial Aid: Pam Chisholm from the Community College System of Vermont

May 30, 2013

Meet Pam Chisholm, Associate Dean of Enrollment Services at the Community College of VermontPam Chisholm Photo

There is no specific path to be a financial aid professional, unless it’s possibly being a work-study student in a financial aid office.   Pam got started on the financial aid career path as a work-study student at Bowdoin College in Maine.  Fast forward 32 years.

 “I’m a first generation college kid from Maine,” shares Pam, “and I was fortunate to attend Bowdoin College, which makes a strong commitment to Maine students. As with many of us in financial aid, we got started on this path by being work-study students in the financial aid office, and that was my beginning.”

“I learned from two of the best,” Pam reflects – Walter Moulton, the director, and Theresa Bernier, his longtime administrative assistant. While at Bowdoin College, “it was in a small office, so I got to do a myriad of things, from administering the work-study program to certifying the guaranteed student loans, and learning the intricacies of needs analysis from Walter.”  Pam stayed there for a year after graduation in an assistantship and as she realized her student loans were coming due, she read in the Chronicle that many of the jobs field required a master’s degree.  “So off I went to grad school and the rest is history,” smiles Pam. 

Pam went on to the University of Vermont for a graduate program in Higher Ed Administration.  Pam’s financial aid career has included serving as a counselor in the grant program with the Vermont Student Assistance Corporation (VSAC) and as the Director of Financial Aid at Trinity College in Burlington, Vermont. Pam now is the Associate Dean of Enrollment Services at the Community College of Vermont, the second largest institution in Vermont. In her role, Pam serves as the Director of Financial Aid and works with admissions and the registrar’s office.

Post-secondary education is a life changer, and financial aid is what provides access,” says Pam.  She loves this about her position.  “More than ever, students and their families need to be smarter consumers, given the debt levels, but it is still possible,” explains Pam.

“Is college worth it” is a new message out in the media recently, Pam shares that this professional challenge is put out next to the commentary around the high debt levels students are absorbing.  “We know some form of post-secondary education beyond high school is critical for personal and societal growth,” says Pam.  Repudiating these media messages has been her campus’s and all of Higher Ed’s challenge this past year and going forward.  “It’s also imperative the states tackle this as well,” states Pam.

Pam is especially proud of their financial aid offices.   Pam shares, “The time and care the staff take in meeting with and advising each student, respecting each as an individual with a distinct story and needs.”  It is what financial aid staff are all about.  Caring about students.

Financial Aid runs in her family!   “It’s what my husband does and my step-children, too,” shares Pam.  Her son, Eric, works for an on-line graduate school where he helps students with their financial aid, registration, and on-line courses. Pam’s stepdaughter, Kris, works for an allied health school in St. Louis where she helps students with the admissions and financial aid process. Pam’s 17 year old son Nathan asked if he had to go into “the family business.”  Pam smiles, “I guess we’ll see where he ends up.”

Pam enjoys spending time with her family, gardening, golfing, hiking , following sports teams, learning to perfect cooking on her new grill, reading, and Pam adds, “letting my 17 year teach me how to use my iPhone!”

Dan Dreves, Northeast Regional Director, Nelnet Partner Solutions

Dan Dreves, Northeast Regional Director, Nelnet Partner Solutions

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