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The University of Washington, Office of Student Financial Aid has an outstanding opportunity for a Financial Aid Lead Counselor for Systems.
Student Financial Aid, a unit within the Enrollment Management, supports the Provost as well as the University of Washington community. This position has significant impact on the effective, efficient, and fiscally sound operation of our financial aid programs. The financial aid programs (in excess of $600 million reaching over 31,000 students across 3 campuses) contribute to the University's overall mission as a public institution. Without fully functioning aid systems, students would be unable to attend, and the University could experience financial liability and fines, and funds necessary for the operation of the University would not be received.
The Lead Counselor for Systems is a multi-faceted position that significantly contributes to the overall mission and daily operations of the Office of Student Financial Aid. The Lead Counselor- Systems provides guidance and training to the financial aid counselors (grades 6, 7, and 8) in the use of the financial aid computer systems in the Office of Student Financial Aid and in the use of the system in relation to the daily operations and in the continued design and development of the aid review and awarding system. The Lead Counselor- Systems will participate in system analysis work and in design sessions with the Associate Director, the Director of System and Analysis, and the overall systems team and provide feedback from the counseling staff. The Lead Counselor - Systems will solicit feedback from the counseling staff, test new system applications, and research and report system performance concerns. Development and presentation of training materials are also required as part of this position. The Lead Counselor-Systems will continue to have similar responsibilities of the Counselor and Senior Counselor positions, with the added component of a lead role in the systems unit of Student Financial Aid. The Lead Counselor may also be assigned major programmatic responsibilities that involve participation in policy analysis and implementation, process improvement, outreach development and scheduling, and compliance related activities.
The financial aid field is one that requires a thorough understanding of the federal, state, and institutional rules governing the various forms of financial aid. Federal law is reauthorized every 5 to 6 years, and additional regulatory changes and new legislation drive multiple annual changes to processing and eligibility. State aid can change annually with each session of the legislature. Institutional costs and processes may change even more often in response to improvements and limitations of technology, approval and revisions of budget priorities, and structural organizations. Every counselor will track these changes and the effects on student awards at the University. A more experienced counselor will be able to explain how these issues reflect changes in institutional, state, and federal guidelines and explain why each change was required and implemented. A senior financial aid counselor will not only be able to explain these changes, why and how they were implemented, but also be a resource to students, fellow counselors, and others in the profession. A Lead Counselor-Systems will also be able to evaluate automated systems in light of changes to rules and regulations, and analyze existing systems and programs for efficiency and compliance. The counselor must successfully keep abreast of technical applications of regulatory and institutional changes and utilize competent and increasingly complex computer system skills to meet their job requirements. Specific assigned programs may be exceptionally complex and require specialized training or skills. Beyond the technical and counseling skills required for evaluation and verification of financial aid eligibility, the counselors must use significant and broad professional judgment and discretion in the awarding of available financial aid. Changes in a family's financial strength, exceptions to the standard cost of attendance for unusual educational costs, and satisfactory academic progress appeals to financial aid eligibility requirements due to unique and special circumstances of the student are some examples of issues that require the use of professional judgment. These situations require careful review based on a thorough understanding of regulatory as well as personal issues involved. In many cases, the issues involved may be complex and require involved discussions and excellent analytical skills to arrive at a decision that is justified and as fair as possible. All exceptions must be fully documented and made within the limitations of statute. Our student service structure calls upon counselors to explain, sometimes to defend, professional judgment decisions made by other counselors. Because of the shared workload and working styles of a large group of individuals, successful counselors must be excellent communicators, good negotiators, team players and excellent colleagues who share the goals and the hard work necessary to achieve them. Bridging the gap between the expectations of students and parents and the reality of what financial aid will provide can be stressful. Counselors deal continuously with the dissonance between a family's perceived need and the help available to the student. In this position, they may be the "bearer of bad news" sometimes accused of telling students they "cannot" attend the University. They must be able to deal effectively with the dejection that some students feel when confronted with limited resources to make their educational dreams come true as well as parents and students who may become adversarial in attempts to improve their treatment. To resolve these situations without assistance, counselors are knowledgeable and authoritative while remaining supportive, calm and professional even under highly charged circumstances. Counselors must also be effective and knowledgeable in communicating to diverse groups and larger audiences regarding the financial aid process and requirements, and willing to contribute wherever possible or needed to outreach activities. Lead Counselors-Systems must also be able to work with and train non-aid professionals – specifically systems developers, business analysts, and project managers - in the rules and intricacies of aid administration.
Counselors contribute to serving a diverse community by helping students from a variety of socio-economic backgrounds to attend the University. The financial aid counselors as a team process over $662 million in financial aid to approximately 32,000 students annually. This represents financial support to the students as well as revenue to the institution. Failure to administer the aid programs properly would result in financial liability to the University and possible loss of funding.
System Lead Counselors work with members of the systems team, and with programmers and technical experts at the UW to analyze, advise, improve, document, and test automated systems and tools used in the Office of Student Financial Aid (OSFA). System Lead counselors will provide testing and evaluation of system design and development, and communicate problems to the appropriate managers. Using significant expertise and experience, SLCs will evaluate processes in place and interfaces with related systems (UW, State, and Federal), and create documentation for the tri-campus staff on the system changes, as well as group and one on one training sessions. Solicit feedback from staff on recommendations for system enhancements and overall design of the system. Review federal and state written updates and attend training and information meetings to maintain current knowledge of regulatory and institutional changes and policies relative to financial aid and in relation to computer system requirements as needed to support the OSFA’s compliance with all rules and regulations. Will be responsible for tasks to ensure integrity of data and systems, developing review and reporting procedures, tracking exceptions with reports and other tools developed in conjunction with IT staff. Will work collaboratively with staff from other UW offices and Federal and State Contractors.
System Lead Counselors will advise financial aid counselors on how to implement revisions to student need analysis data elements, cost of attendance or financial aid to accommodate special circumstances where appropriate as related to changes in the financial aid system. Provide in-person advising and counseling for students, parents, and others seeking information and assistance with all aspects of the financial aid process, and serve as an experienced resource when dealing with especially complex or sensitive student and family situations, and with difficult situations. General counseling requires a thorough knowledge of financial aid procedures and eligibility rules, and excellent communication skills. In more intensive counseling sessions involving complex or difficult situations, lead counselors must also ask questions necessary to gather data sufficient to provide helpful and complete answers, analyze the student's circumstances in the context of financial aid eligibility rules, weighing the effects of sometimes conflicting federal, state and institutional rules, and the student's interests. In addition to these Senior Lead responsibilities, System Lead counselors advise and train financial aid counselors and others in the intricacies and use of the financial aid computer system to perform award adjustments, file review functions and packaging modules, and evaluate and recommend system and process revisions to improve the student experience. Financial aid counselors examine circumstances in light of state, federal and institutional requirements and determine whether an adjustment is appropriate. Explain the possible outcomes and consequences of each action or decision. Make an assessment whether standard procedures will adequately resolve the situation and, if the situation appears to be exceptional and may benefit from use of professional judgment, advise and assist student in preparing the documentation needed to proceed. If standard procedures appear inadequate to address the special needs of the student in a critical situation, advocate for the student for exceptions to policy within the office or with process partners. When recommending exceptional treatment, utilize critical problem solving abilities, weighing the advantages and potential liability for each alternative suggested. In addition to in-person advising, lead counselors also advise and assist students and others over the phone and by e-mail and written correspondence, addressing issues with tact, accuracy, and with a concern for maintaining student privacy. Administrative or liaison activities unique to assigned programs. Participate in policy discussions with the management team.
* A bachelor’s degree * At least 4 years experience in the financial aid administration of federal, state, and institutional aid programs to include experience with the federal delivery system, verification and awarding aid or equivalent education and experience. * Demonstrated ability to work well with people from diverse backgrounds. * Proficiency with computers and common office PC-based software products (Word, Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint, Access). * Excellent written, verbal and interpersonal communication skills. Experience representing department as knowledgeable and authoritative while remaining supportive, calm and professional even under highly charged circumstances. Demonstrated ability to communicate technical information and convey disappointing information.
Equivalent education/experience will substitute for all minimum qualifications except when there are legal requirements, such as a license/certification/registration.
As a UW employee, you will enjoy generous benefits and work/life programs. For a complete description of our benefits for this position, please visit our website, click here.
The application process for UW positions may include completion of a variety of online assessments to obtain additional information that will be used in the evaluation process. These may include Work Authorization, Cover Letter and/or others. Any assessments that you need to complete will appear on your screen as soon as you select “Apply to this position”. Once you begin an assessment, it must be completed at that time; if you do not complete the assessment, you will be prompted to do so the next time you access your “My Jobs” page. If you select to take it later, it will appear on your "My Jobs" page to take when you are ready. Please note that your application will not be reviewed, and you will not be considered for this position until all required assessments have been completed.
Founded in 1861, the University of Washington is one of the oldest public institutions in the west coast and one of the preeminent research universities in the world. The University of Washington is a multi-campus university comprised of three different campuses: Seattle, Tacoma, and Bothell. The Seattle campus is made up of sixteen schools and colleges that serve students ranging from an undergraduate level to a doctoral level. The university is home to world-class libraries, arts, music, drama, and sports, as well as the highest quality medical care in Washington State and a world-class academic medical center. The teaching and research of the University’s many professional schools provide undergraduate and graduate students the education necessary toward achieving an excellence that will serve the state, the region, and the nation. As part of a large and diverse community, the University of Washington serves more students than any other institution in the Northwest.