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Jim Harris and Dawn Knight discuss why they’re passionate about helping schools succeed and more

July 10, 2014

The Nelnet Partner Solutions team is made up of financial aid experts who live all across the United States and focus on helping schools. We can serve as an invaluable resource to your school. What can we provide for you and your colleagues?

  • Expert advice from the #1 default prevention servicer
  • A familiar, approachable face at area conferences
  • Information about any of Nelnet’s loan servicing solutions, both for schools and for borrowers
  • Help with financial aid-related issues
  • Training solutions for your financial aid office


Jim Harris, Managing Director, Nelnet Partner Solutions

Jim Harris, Managing Director, Nelnet Partner Solutions

Jim Harris leads the Partner Solutions team, helping Regional Directors provide quality services to schools and their students. As a National Manager, Dawn Knight is focused on ensuring the delivery of quality customer service and enhanced communications. We asked Jim and Dawn a few questions so you can get to know them better:

1. How long have you been with Nelnet?

Jim: I started with Nelnet back in November of 2003. I can’t believe that it’s been over ten years.

Dawn: It’ll be 15 years this January.

Dawn Knight, National Manager, Nelnet Partner Solutions

Dawn Knight, National Manager, Nelnet Partner Solutions

2. How long have you been in the financial aid industry?

Jim: I started working in the financial aid industry back in 1998. I worked for a short time in admissions, then took a position as a financial aid officer (verification and loan processing), and then moved up to the Director of Financial Aid at Western Wyoming Community College. Within a few years I moved my family to Fort Collins, Colorado, where I worked as the Associate Director of Student Financial Services at Colorado State University, and we have lived here ever since. All of my career, I have worked in some capacity with students and schools. Some of my most rewarding years were spent right out of college, when I taught high school English and Speech/Debate.

Dawn: Almost 15 years.

3. What do you like most about working for Nelnet?

Jim: Definitely, the people. Easy question. I am so lucky that I get to work with true friends. I call them my work family. It is a place where people are professional and supportive, but at the same time, they are just fun to be around. My coworkers are the same folks I would like to have over for a weekend BBQ. The career opportunities have been amazing for me, but it is the people that make Nelnet what it is.

Dawn: The ‘small-town’ atmosphere of Nelnet combined with its ‘up-town’ initiatives. The formula works very well and makes for happy associates and customers.

4. What has been the most rewarding aspect of being a part of the Partner Solutions team?

Jim: This has changed for me over the years. I used strive to see what “I” could do. Now I am more interested in helping folks on my team grow. And the great thing is, when they do well, then I do well. I have learned the value of offering opportunities, like speaking at conferences, to my team members. Beyond that, my position lets me travel to all the major financial aid events across the US. I have made a lot of new friends in the financial aid community, and I also get to connect with old friends. I met some of them years ago when I was in a financial aid office myself.

Dawn: Interacting with schools and finding solutions to make their day-to-day servicing needs a positive experience for them and their students.

1467391_10202830159701628_108083426_n5. What trends are you seeing in financial aid offices?

Jim: Technology! I am amazed that it was considered innovative when I wrote the coding at WWCC to auto-package financial aid letters. Now, needless to say, it is standard. Everything is online now. Now we have a whole new echelon of social media and texting to communicate with students in the way they prefer to communicate the most. Obviously, financial aid has always been full of policy changes and new programs and requirements. It is a constant.

Dawn: Smaller staff being pulled in many different directions – mostly focusing on increasing student retention and default prevention.

6. What are three words that describe you?

Jim: Questions like this are hard. I would like to think that people see that I can find the fun and humor in situations. Is that three words?

Dawn: Analytical, achiever, and food lover.

7. What might someone be surprised to know about you?

Jim: I have never traveled outside the United States, and specifically to Europe. Both of my kids are doing so this summer. I hope to be able to do so myself at some point. The good thing is that now my kids will know the best places to take us.

Dawn: I count everything. All. The. Time. Always. It’s annoying even to me but my brain just works that way. Please don’t judge.

IMG_80588. What do you like to do in your free time?

Jim: I love to cook…and ironically, I love to work out. These are not always supportive of each other. I have a great personal trainer, Ethan, here in Fort Collins that has helped me to lose 25 pounds and learn to eat more healthy while I am traveling. So that is a great hobby, but spending time with my family is what I like most.

Dawn: Traveling! I like to read or do anything outdoors, listen to jazz, hang with the cats and hubby, spend time with fun friends, yoga, cycle….just not cook…or dust.

9. If you were a cartoon character, who would you be and why?

Jim: I always liked Bugs Bunny. I remember waking up very early in the morning so I could catch Looney Tunes. (We only had one TV channel, and this meant a 6 AM wake up call). Bugs was a smart-aleck and somehow always ended up on top. I also appreciated that he kept his rabbit hole tidy. I think he even had a phone. Conversely, I never liked Foghorn Leghorn. I always hoped the farmer would get rid of him someday.

Dawn: Piglet (without the obsessive worrying component) from Winnie The Pooh. And, no, not just for the body type. Piglet likes to get along with everyone and is easy-going, yet he has a strong side with strong convictions and will toe the line. I get that!


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