Tammy Higgins at NASFAA Leadership

I was honored to be allowed to attend the NASFAA Leadership Conference held in Washington in the first week of February 2020. I attended as the Treasurer-Elect position, representing our KASFAA organization.  I would love to share just a few things that I discovered about this conference and the people who both attended the conference and also presented at the conference.  I would also love to share just a few things about the city and our visit to Capitol Hill, which allowed several members of our Kansas organization to meet and express our thoughts to some of our Kansas legislative members of Congress.

Even though this was not the first time I had attended this conference, it was the first time in over 10 years, so things have definitely changed.  Initially, this conference was held in a very small meeting space, but boy was this a different experience than last time.    We were hosted this year at The Mayflower Hotel, the largest luxury hotel in the District of Columbia, and the longest continuously operating hotel in Washington, also known as the “Grande Dame of Washington”.  It was such a beautifully maintained piece of history and I was so impressed and humbled to walk through the lobby or into the meeting rooms, knowing that many important people had been on this same location.  Not to worry KASFAA members, we had a great room rate, so we were very frugal with our organization dollars.

The Mayflower Hotel[1] hosted the Inaugural ball of President Calvin Coolidge, just shortly after it opened in 1925 and every four years until the final ball in 1981; President-elect Herbert Hoover hosted his President-elect planning team offices there in 1928; Presidential-elect Franklin D. Roosevelt spent some time there before his inauguration in 1932, Harry S. Truman was a dinner guest in 1948; just a few other dignitaries who were guests or attended an event at the hotel were J. Edgar Hoover, President Barack Obama, Hilary Clinton, and President Bill Clinton.  I’m sure the list goes on and on, but needless to say, it’s a beautiful place to be and gives anyone who is lucky enough to be a guest an opportunity to begin to absorb the beautiful culture of the city, both past and present day.  As an upcoming leader in the KASFAA organization, I felt very lucky to be in such a beautiful location, conveniently located in the heart of Washington, DC. Friends and I enjoyed an evening sightseeing tour of Washington that was fabulous.

Since I’ve been in the Financial Aid industry for such a long time, I’ve made lots of friends along the way.  I was blessed to see several of my colleagues from Oklahoma (shout out to Mendy Schmerer and Andrew Hammontree), Missouri (shout out to Becca Diskin), and of course Kansas colleagues (hi girls – Darcy Johnson, Christal Williams, Brenda Hicks, Angela Karlin and even though she lives in FL – Billie Jo Hamilton), as well as vendors (hello again Ron Hancock, Nick Martinez,  Mindy Hager, and Rob Smith) who share the industry from all three of my formerly employed states.  I was lucky to spend a lot of time in the Association Leadership track with new friends too numerous to mention from Texas, Iowa, Alabama and Georgia, specifically.  RMASFAA colleagues were also present (Justin Chase Brown, Joe Donlay and James Broscheit). But these conferences are mostly about making new connections.   I made some new friends as well.  One new friend – Stephanie Simms from Purdue University, was unique.  We talked from the beginning as if we had grown up together.  I knew early on that Stephanie would grow to be one of my besties in the industry and time will tell.  What an excellent opportunity to be able to “be ourselves” while talking the language few others understand.  These professional development opportunities are the best part of serving in leadership in our organizations and something everyone should be part of.  I hope this is an incentive for others within my State of Kansas and/or RMASFAA region to want to share in the future.  Get involved…you’ll love serving your state, your institution and mostly your students in a BETTER way.


Of course, the NASFAA presenters were awesome.  There were several tracks to choose from including Advanced Topics in FA Leadership, Association Leadership, Compliance Management, and Strategic Enrollment Management.  This conference has something (and more) for everyone.  One-on-one instruction, panel discussions and individual training for position-specific areas of Association Leadership were experiences I had.  As always, Justin Draeger, President/CEO of NASFAA was amazing, he and his team (Megan Coval and Beth Maglione, specifically) were so instrumental in assisting with discussion topics and policy issues.  Lori Vetter and Paula Luff answered day-to-day issues we come across, and best practices in management.

NASFAA Leadership 1

NASFAA Leadership 2

Some of my colleagues from Kansas and I were granted an audience with some aides from Senator Pat Roberts’s office and Senator Jerry Moran’s office (a local Kansas girl – go Kansas!).  We were also fortunate to visit directly with Representative Roger Marshall, and share some current issues affecting our students:  FAFSA SIMPLIFICATION, FINANCIAL AID AWARD LETTER STANDARDIZATION – THE PROS AND CONS, ORIGINATION FEES AND HOW THEY AFFECT OUR STUDENTS and answered general questions they had about our work in the industry.  What an honor to be allowed to have our opinions heard from this select group representing the people of Kansas.

I will close by again, thanking the KASFAA association for allowing me to participate in this conference, and would also encourage others within the organization to become more involved within the organization in these kinds of leadership roles.  I’ll leave you with this quote by Margaret J. Wheatley, ” There is no power for change greater than a community discovering what it cares about.”  In KASFAA, we know the importance of those we serve and strive to work together to make their lives better.


Tammy Higgins

KASFAA Treasurer-Elect

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mayflower_Hotel

Meet the Committee – Outreach Training

Outreach Training

Responsible for providing training to high school counselors and other partners to support efforts for annual completion of the FAFSA. These efforts include train the trainer events and updating a constituent resource page(s) on the KASFAA website.

Danielle Sullivan – Chair

Johnson County Community College

What their position entails/ what they have done for and with the committee Outreach Training Chair  –  Organize work of entire Outreach Training Committee providing accountability and leadership, plan 2 in person training events throughout the state of Kansas for High School Guidance Counselors, TRIO/GEAR UP, and other college access professionals, schedule Outreach Training Committee planning meetings, communicate activities to KASFAA, attend KASFAA board meetings.

How long they have been with KASFAA 12 years

What position they hold for their job and how long they have been thereFinancial Aid Advising Supervisor JCCC, 4 months; Assistant Director of Financial Aid & Scholarships University of Kansas, 11 years

How long in financial aid – 16 years

Why they chose to join this committee – I love doing presentations and connecting with those who are on the ground helping students first-hand. I enjoy providing training, and meeting with people in our communities.


Whitney Asher – Co Chair, Barton CCC


Laura Allison

Johnson County Community College

What your position entails/ what you have done for and with the committee. This is my second year as a member of the Outreach Committee. Each year I have helped present as a community college representative at the training.

How long have you been with KASFAA? I have been a member of KASFAA since 2016.

What position do you hold for your job and how long have you been there? I have been the Financial Aid Director at Independence Community College since March 2016.

How long in financial aid? I have been in financial aid since March 2016.

Why did you choose to join this committee? I chose this committee because I like to spread our wealth of knowledge to people outside financial aid who aren’t familiar with the financial aid world or who might feel intimated by navigating the financial aid process.

Chantelle Arnold FHSU


Gary Bateman Ottawa


Tara Brinkoetter

Baker University

What your position entails/ what you have done for and with the committee. I have helped with the registration process for our committee, through emailing out counselors and helping update information on the people who might be interested in attending the workshops.

How long have you been with KASFAA? I have been with KASFAA for about a year.

What position do you hold for your job and how long have you been there? I am a Financial Aid Assistant at Baker University, and I have been in this position for a year and a half.

How long in financial aid? A year and a half.

Why did you choose to join this committee? I chose to join this committee because I remember what it was like going through the financial aid process, and how hard it could be to get assistance with applying for and understanding financial aid. This committee seeks to help train counselors and other professionals who might give incoming students information about financial aid, so that they can be ready to answer questions and offer assistance, and I wanted to be a part of it since I remember how stressful learning about financial aid could be as a student who didn’t have access to people with financial aid training.



Diane Lindeman KBOR


Vaine Lutz

Friends University

What their position entails/ what they have done for and with the committee I have assisted with the Fall 2019 KASFAA training for counselors with the Wichita site location and set up and was the site coordinator for Wichita. I am also assisting with the KASFAA Spring 2020 training for counselors for the Wichita site and am the backup coordinator.  I will be co-presenting for the spring training.  I have assisted with updating the KAASFA site information about KS colleges FAFSA priority deadline to ensure accurate deadline dates and making sure that the schools site are correctly linked to the school.

How long they have been with KASFAA 6 years

What position they hold for their job and how long they have been there Assistant Director of Financial Aid, 2 years at Friends University

How long in financial aid maybe 7 years

Why they chose to join this committee I chose to join the outreach and training committee, because I was interested in learning about more what this specific committee does.  After being a part of this committee, it definitely provides valuable information to outside sources.  There’s a lot of work that goes into this committee and I have a deep appreciation for what this committee does. 


Leah Nicholson KU


Yuliana Reyes ESU


Regina Tolbert

Emporia State University

What your position entails/ what you have done for and with the committee. Member, Outreach Training site coordinator and presenter!

How long have you been with KASFAA? 2 years

What position do you hold for your job and how long have you been there? Scholarship Coordinator at ESU  — 2 years

How long in financial aid? 2 years

Why did you choose to join this committee? I enjoy helping others learn about financial aid. Financial aid is often a stressful task for students and families. I want to get information out to them to decrease that stress!


Jamie Whitmore

Kansas Board of Regents

What your position entails/ what you have done for and with the committee.  For this past year’s training, I put together the Save the Date postcard for the training sessions we put on across the state.  I also helped with registration and attendance for the Topeka site.

How long have you been with KASFAA? This is my third year of being in KASFAA, but only my second volunteering on a committee.

What position do you hold for your job and how long have you been there?  I work in Student Financial Aid at the Kansas Board of Regents, issuing the scholarship funding to the colleges on behalf of the state of Kansas.  I’ve been in this position for three years now. 

How long in financial aid?  Just three years.

Why did you choose to join this committee?  Originally, I joined the outreach training committee because my boss Diane was the chair and she asked for my help in some of the technical work (registration, emails to counselors, sending the save the date postcard, etc.)  I wasn’t sure what I was getting into, but it turned out to be a pretty good time and I think my amateur design skills were really appreciated, so I stayed on for a second year.  Aside from that, I think this committee is great because it’s a chance to see the ways KASFAA helps people outside our immediate organization.  It’s taking the best of our combined knowledge and passing it on to the public where it’s needed most, which is more rewarding than some of the other options (looking at you, Archive Committee). 

Greetings from your KASFAA Government Relations Committee!

With all financial aid professionals busy with the process of completing student files and generating financial aid offers for the 2020-2021 academic year (among other things!!), it is easy to look past the realities of how much influence we can each have on state and federal policy. Certainly we each wonder just how much of a difference one voice can make. This blog serves as a friendly reminder that your voice can and does make a difference. Just as you work with individual students and provide guidance that makes a difference one life at a time, you have the knowledge, tools and ability to advocate for your students in Topeka and beyond.

Not sure who represents you in the Kansas House and Senate? Go to kslegislature.org/li/ where various ways to exist to learn more about who represents you and what is going on in our state legislature.

Elected officials are clearly busy people who often do not have the time to respond to questions, but these folks definitely do value input from their constituency. By communicating facts and figures about what a difference access to education is making in the lives of students in your community, you open doors to advocacy about the way we fund higher education and encourage Kansas students to stay in-state for college. Engage in conversation with your co-workers, ask student opinions as they come in and out of your office and take the time to send valuable pieces of such information to your elected officials so they can know more about the value inherent in educational funding.

Newly Certified Financial Aid Administrator: ‘Do it Even if it Scares You’

Hot off the press!! Congrats Brenda!!

Brenda Hicks

As a veteran financial aid professional with nearly three decades of experience, you might not think anything could intimidate Brenda Hicks, director of financial aid at Southwestern College in Winfield, Kan.

But there was one challenge in front of her that she said “scared me to death” — pursuing certification through NASFAA’s Certified Financial Aid Administrator® (CFAA) Program. But her fears were exactly why she went through with it and joined the more than 110 other CFAAs who have successfully passed the exam as of January 2020.

“The prospect of taking an exam that would prove or disprove the knowledge I have in the profession I have chosen was extremely scary ground,” Hicks said.

The CFAA program covers the wide range of skills and knowledge required to perform competently in Title IV financial aid administration at any type of institution across the country and assesses a candidate’s broader knowledge across multiple subject areas. CFAA recognition brings with it a variety of career-boosting perks, such as invitations to participate in professional development opportunities, becoming part of the community of CFAAs, inclusion on the CFAA Registry, and recognition of your knowledge and experience as a financial aid professional.

To become a CFAA, candidates must first complete an application online demonstrating they meet all the qualifying criteria. Once an application is approved, candidates may schedule their approximately two-hour CFAA exam session during an open testing window — the next testing cycle runs from February 10-24. As soon as a candidate is scheduled to take their exam at a time that is convenient for them, all that’s left to do is prepare.

Hicks prepared for the CFAA exam by reviewing the online materials and NASFAA’s self-study guides on topics she doesn’t regularly encounter in her daily work. But she mainly relied on her 28 years of experience in the field. Hicks has trained many other people on financial aid regulations and, because she works in a “small shop” at Southwestern College, is able to remain involved in the day-to-day operations of the financial aid office.

“I wanted my experience to prove itself,” Hicks said. “My non-traditional approach contributed to the anxiety I experienced surrounding the test and receipt of the results. But when I got that email that said ‘PASSED’ — man, did it feel good.”

After taking the exam, the CFAA will immediately have access to a diagnostic report with their performance in each content area.

For Hicks, one of the best parts of receiving her CFAA designation was adding the initials to her email signature.

“It’s a subtle, unobtrusive way of saying, ‘This person knows what she is doing,'” Hicks said.

Once certified, the CFAA must recertify every three years, a process that will require an accumulation of points earned by completing various professional development activities. Hicks plans on recertifying by continuing to attend NASFAA webinars and printing her participation certificates.

“I also plan on getting my participation points when I attend conferences and other training programs,” she said. “Training is like breathing to financial aid administrators, so I really don’t anticipate this being a difficult thing to do. Do it even if it scares you. You’ll be glad that you did.”

By Hunter B. Martin, NASFAA Staff Reporter 

NASFAA Publication Date: 1/29/2020