Jillian Palan & “Her Wizarding Week at Summer Institute”

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My primary reason to attend SI was to gain more knowledge about financial aid for job advancement. I did more than just that, I made friends and networks that I can rely on in the future. I was in the neophyte track for beginners with Peg Mason (Assistant Director, Colorado School of Mines) and Sarah Standley (Student Services Coordinator, University of Nebraska – Lincoln). Our class was Slytherin Green, hiisssssss (snake sound)! If you did not know, a snake is the symbol for the Slytherin House.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from SI. I was told many times it would be a long week full of information overload. They were right about that! I gained a better understanding and knowledge of financial aid from all aspects. We covered everything from Cost of Attendance, SAP, Consumer Information, Verification, Packaging and Notification of Awards, PJ’s to finding EFC by hand among other topics. There were many times when some things I was unclear of before just clicked. There were also times, when I added to my list of questions for how we handled some situations or what our policy states. For example, “Who is in charge of Gainful Employment?” Bless that person!

One of the best experiences I think, was just being able to discuss with classmates on their schools’ policies/procedures, about how they do certain things. A very close second to that was our Slytherin Green team winning the Minute to Win it challenge against the other classes! Before the competition, I came up with a chant for our class to do. If you have ever seen the movie Dodgeball, it was like that; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g1UO6X0KRjc . It went, two slaps on the knees then snake like hands with the hisssss sound. We were told it was terrifying. Also, I’m pretty sure I won my class award for Most Likely to Lead a Diverse Group because of this chant we did all week long!

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                                             The best part of this training opportunity is the atmosphere for learning. All the instructors and people involved are upbeat and help to keep the boring stuff still fun. 😉 The theme was perfectly done with relation to financial aid and very entertaining. From the costume contest at the end of the training to the wands we received. I now have a degree of Master of Financial Aid Wizardry! Thank you KASFAA for this opportunity!

Enjoying time with co-workers Ashley Jost and Cat Carpio on their free afternoon…and hiking 1,000 steps up Manitou Incline – $2,744 steps to the top.

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Jillian works in the Financial Aid office at JCCC as our Administrative Assistant but it sounds like she’s ready for more challenges….



Summer Institute Can Get A Little Squirrelly

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I didn’t really know what to expect from summer institute. It is a week full of a lot of learning where at times your brain is on overload. But I learned so much. Every day I got to go to a class with two really great instructors and a really good group of classmates.  The topics and lessons we went over were really helpful and I constantly was going ok great we do that or hmm I should look into that. And even outside the classroom just getting to have conversations with people from other schools. Seeing how they do their processes and talking to people that understand the awesome craziness that is financial aid. 

And it was really great to have this opportunity while surrounded by the beautiful mountains. Even if it took me all week to adjust to the crazy altitude.

The other person in the photos is my coworker Emily Engler. And I of course had to include a couple photos of the squirrels. They were very friendly and would come right up to your feet.

Jaimie Luse

Summer Institute: Molly Doubles As Hermione

Molly McNall attended Summer Institute and gave us her take along with some great shots of the beautiful scenery.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Summer Institute. The theme was right up my alley, and incorporated a lot of Harry Potter thematics and references, but at the same time wasn’t too cheesy. I learned so much about financial aid, particularly in the areas of R2T4 (we spent an entire afternoon on this one!), Pell Formulas, and Gainful Employment being the ones I started knowing the least about (I even won a class award – the “Hermione Granger Learning Award” – for being a sponge and soaking up all kinds of knowledge over the course of the week). It was really neat to be able to meet people from all over the region, and learn so much not only from both of our instructors (Brenda and Lisa were outstanding!), but also from each other – lots of experience in the room! I have to say that my overall favorite part was our surprise performance of the Verification Song by Art Young and the Comment Codes! We were nearly on the floor, we were laughing so hard. Sadly, I did not get a video of this, but several of my classmates definitely did! I would definitely return in the future, it was a thoroughly rewarding and fun experience.

Summer Institute: Not Just Wizardry

Tammy Higgins has given us a peek

into her wonderful time at this year’s Summer Institute.

Why did you attend Summer Institute (SI)?  In what role (ie. instructor/participant)?

How many times have you attended SI? As a Director of Financial Assistance for 20 years, and an administrator for 32…I attended the Directors Track as a student.  This was my first time at Summer Institute and I was very impressed with the structure of the daily agenda and the interactive, networking opportunities we had, meeting new faces, and creating new friends and peers.  Financial aid is an enigma sometimes, and other than the infamous Art Young and his band the Comment Codes …I’m not sure if any of us really grasp it in its entirety.  The face to face opportunity to discuss difficult situations, and kick ideas around about our processes was amazing.  I learned a lot of important points I’m bringing back to my operation.

What was the most important “thing” you hoped to gain from Summer Institute (ie. expectations prior to attending)?

I was hoping to meet some new people in our region and make some contacts – which I did – but I also created some new friendships along the way that I’ll retain for a long time.  It’s so comforting to know that we’re not alone in our efforts to do the right things for our students, and help them be successes on our campuses.

What did you actually gain from SI?  Was it different than what you expected?

I gained an understanding that even though we all do our very best to interpret regulation…we still vary and often have different interpretations of the same rule.  Are we too critical or too “loose” in our understandings and requirements?  Sometimes I wish I was new to the profession, so I could remember “just one way” to do what the reg’s ask of me…instead of having the experience of changes over the years, melding the “new interpretation” into something else.  It’s so great to have new blood in our industry, challenging our viewpoints.  Growing as an industry, with our students, AND federal regulation can seem difficult, but at Summer Institute…we are in “safe spaces” that allow us to discuss our challenges and share things that are working and improving our systems.

Forget the adage, “What happens at SI, stays at SI!”  What would you like to share that would:

I would encourage you to attend, and feel the energy and excitement you have to put back into the job when you return.  I was excited to come back to the office and implement the new ideas and clean up anything that I needed to, as well.  I know this may sound silly, but we’re all still learning, aren’t we? Even after 32 years…I’m still learning every day from my staff, from my colleagues, and from the students we serve.

Draw a smile from someone in the membership reading your post

“Ahhhhh…those red pants that my instructor Brenda wore… I’m sure one of  her friends will never live that down!”

Be a little known fact about your classmates, your instructors, the location, the                     surroundings, etc.

My new friend Judy Hager is a very good driver and has a heart of gold for sharing the road with family. Another new friend, Jackie Zeltinger is a Phase 10 card shark!  Our instructors Deloris 1 & 2 (aka Angela Karlin and Brenda Burke) were excellent!  I appreciate your shared thoughts, insights and knowledge.

What ONE THING makes this training opportunity stand apart from other training opportunities?

The depth of  the content. We dove deep into conversations, sharing comments, ideas and concerns and I feel that the entire group of members in our classroom all learned something from one another. I appreciated their comments and advice and look forward to seeing them again at future conferences or at another Summer Institute.

The Winds of Change impact Fiscal Officers

All the news that fits we print…By Keith Fitzsimmons, KASFAA Cub Reporter

The KASFAA Fiscal Officers deal with change every day as guardians of their school’s funds. New regs, rules, and reasons seem to blow in with regular occurrence. So to change their annual K-State Fiscal Officer workshop to the Fall will be a breeze. 

Ashley Wolf from the Cashiers & Student Accounts Office at Kansas State University, took this endeavor on and after some back and forth leg work, made it all happen. When asked why this happened, Ashley said, “The change was made due to end of year and KASFAA just doing Spring conferences. Hoping the change of dates will allow more schools to join. This also allows us to discuss [topics] once in the Fall and once in the Spring.” It also, “Allows us to get together twice a year to discuss what is happening with Perkins.”

The KSU Workshop began from humble beginnings when in 2001, “A group of Fiscal officers wanted to meet to discuss some topics that were being discussed at other conferences and hadn’t been covered at KASFAA” states Kelli Lowe, Manager of Credit World Services in Mission, Kansas.  According to Kelli, “KSU [Kansas State University] agreed to host the event with CWS [Credit World Services] as the sponsor.  The group grew from 8-10 original participants to the largest group of 40 in 2018.  There have been fiscal officers attend from not only Kansas, but Nebraska, Iowa, and Missouri as well.  The workshop has evolved to include not only members of KASFAA but also the Kansas Bursar group.” Always practical Kelli reminded us that, “With the cost of travel and lack of budget dollars, the workshop has become very popular”.

Kelli said that the workshop benefits both the Fiscal Officers and CWS and “…we truly look forward to this event each and every year.” 

So fair winds to the Fiscal Officers this Fall in Manhattan.






Summer Institute: Harry Potter Takes Over RMASFAA


I am so grateful for getting to attend Summer Institute! Thank you KASFAA for the scholarship! 

Going into the week, I was looking forward to the opportunity to refresh my knowledge since I am recently returning to the Financial Aid field after 5 years, and I wanted to make some new friends in the KASFAA and RMASFAA regions. Most of my prior relationships in Financial Aid were in Missouri, in the MASFAP and MASFAA regions. My expectations were definitely met and then some! I even ran into an old friend from my MASFAP days!

Summer Institute was phenomenal!  I was able to network and get phone numbers from several Financial Aid professionals in different states. Throughout the conference, our classmates and others were able to share best practices and help each other ensure we are being compliant with Federal regulations. I have a list of questions from the conference to look into and find out what our institutional policies are on those subjects. And I was thrilled to see a live performance of the “Verification” song!

I learned a lot about advocating for students through sharing ideas or proposals for change with NASFAA, and through contacting our representatives. One of my teachers was Brenda Hicks from Southwestern College in KS, who is the new NASFAA President-Elect. She did an exercise with the class where we brain-stormed ideas and chose our favorites to share with NASFAA. She already shared our ideas and we were able to get feedback from NASFAA the Monday after the conference.  It was eye-opening to see the power of teamwork in advocating for change, and how quickly we were able to flesh out some exciting ideas.

I also was able to achieve my goal in refreshing my knowledge on many federal regulations.  Our teachers, Brenda Hicks and Lisa Gdowski from Central Community College in Nebraska, were amazing! They thoroughly covered the most important processes and regulations. We discussed verification, packaging, consumer information requirements, COA, Pell, Professional Judgments, Direct Loans, and cash management, among other topics.  We learned the history behind gainful employment regulations, and discussed disclosure information needed and some important upcoming due dates.

Needless to say, I learned a lot! I was also inspired and reminded of what a great field the Financial Aid profession is! And I had a blast! The Planning Committee did a great job with the Harry Potter theme!  Thank you for all I was able to learn and for the overall experience!


Rachel Touchatt

WSU Tech

Assistant Director, Financial Aid

Here are some pictures:

…On the way there…


…Beautiful location…

…Beautiful people…

…Fun times…

(Minute To Win It)

Did the Butterfinger Candy Bar really change?



YES it did!

The crunchy check-out aisle staple, which has been around since 1923 has changed.

Specifically, the new bars will boast a higher quality chocolate coating with more milk and cocoa for a richer and creamier taste, according to a press release. Also, they’ll feature “carefully selected” peanuts grown in the US and ditch hydrogenated oils and tertiary butylhydroquinone, an additive used to extend freshness.

The new bars will also come in a brand new style of wrapper, which sports a double layer that reportedly helps to improve freshness.

The other little tidbit about this is that the Butterfinger brand had been owned by Nestle since 1990 and was bought by Ferrero (company behind Nutella) recently.

Fun facts for the day from Debbie Brewer!! Thanks for sharing!!