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Financial Aid Staff Praised by National Leader

CNM's Office of Financial Aid and Scholarship Services has been delivering record amounts of financial aid to students for several years in a row. The sheer volume of students lining up to apply and qualify for financial aid is enough to keep financial aid employees constantly on their toes, but evaluating and processing financial aid requests isn't their only challenge.

Aug 30, 2016

Financial Aid Team
CNM's Office of Financial Aid and Scholarship Services has been delivering record amounts of financial aid to students for several years in a row. The sheer volume of students lining up to apply and qualify for financial aid is enough to keep financial aid employees constantly on their toes, but evaluating and processing financial aid requests isn't their only challenge.

In addition to the increases associated with record enrollments, changes in federal regulations have also been on the upswing, prompting a federal financial aid leader to send a letter to college and university presidents across the country praising the impressive work of their financial aid employees.

"During the past two years, we have witnessed the largest increase in financial aid in the history of the federal student aid programs," said William Taggart, Chief Operating Officer of Federal Student Aid, in his letter to college and university presidents. "As a result, record numbers of students are enrolling in higher education programs, reflecting the increased accessibility of postsecondary education. Your financial aid administrators play a vital role in ensuring students can access higher education and that your institutions remain in compliance with federal student aid program regulations. I am writing this letter to articulate my appreciation for their efforts and congratulate them on their continued success."

When the summer term concludes, which will mark the end of the current academic year, CNM expects to have distributed another all-time record for financial aid disbursements.

Lee Carrillo
"We're anticipating that we will be in the $90 million range for this academic year, which will be the largest disbursement ever for us," said CNM Financial Aid Director Lee Carrillo. "Our previous high was last year at about $82 million. For about the last six years, we've been disbursing record amounts. It's been going up exponentially."

Carrillo has been working in financial aid for 21 years, including the last 13 at CNM.

"It gets in your blood," he says. "Talking with students, trying to help students, you never get tired of that. We have a lot of folks who have been working in the Financial Aid office for a long time."

In March 2010, federal legislation was signed by President Obama that required all federal student loans to be administered through the new William D. Ford Direct Loan Program and be originated through the Department of Education. It was a significant challenge for the CNM Financial Aid office to institute this major change, but it has become accustomed to meeting steep challenges. In the past two years, Financial Aid employees have also adjusted to 14 changes to the federal Financial Aid Program Integrity regulations, three federal changes to the Pell Grant program and a major change to federal consumer information regulations related to financial aid.

"We know every year that we'll probably have to adapt and change, because it's mandated (by state and federal law)," Carrillo said. "Thanks to the help we get from (the Office of Information Technology Services), we are able to accommodate the changes. We understand the Banner system well – we have to understand it so we can monitor, set up, upgrade and make changes on how we disburse and when we disburse.

"Our staff has been awesome year to year to year. They've done a great job, they stay on top of everything and we make improvements along the way."

There are 31 Financial Aid employees across all of the campuses, which include front desk staff, financial aid advisors, Pell Grant technicians, Veterans Administration Services employees and Scholarship Services employees.

Thanks to smooth coordination among all the staff members and the effectiveness of the Banner system, Carrillo says that it only takes seven to 10 days for students to receive their financial aid award once they've submitted the proper paperwork and are deemed eligible for the aid.

"Your financial aid staff were responsible for ensuring that your schools were in compliance with several new student aid regulations designed to improve the integrity of the student aid programs," Taggart, the Federal Student Aid COO said in his letter. "I acknowledge that collectively, these changes presented significant challenges for your staff. Nevertheless, your financial aid administrators were able to quickly adapt and continued to seamlessly and effectively administer the financial aid programs on your respective campuses. Their dedication and professionalism throughout this period is commendable."

Of course, more change is on the way for the 2011-12 academic year. New federal regulations regarding Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) mandated by the U.S. Department of Education will go into effect after the summer term. After the summer term, every student applying for financial aid will be expected to cumulatively meet SAP standards to continue receiving financial aid.

At the end of the summer term, the cumulative SAP standards that students applying for financial aid must meet include:

  • Qualitative Progress – Students must have a cumulative grade point average of 2.0 or higher
  • Quantitative Progress – Students must cumulatively be completing at least 66.67 percent of all attempted credit hours
  • Maximum Time Frame – Students must complete their program within 150 percent of the hours required to graduate from their declared program

Financial Aid Office
If students don't meet all of these standards by the end of the summer term, they will be suspended from receiving financial aid. Suspended students will have the option of appealing their status if an extenuating circumstance impeded their progress.

For more information about the Office of Financial Aid and Scholarship Services.