Otterbein Financial Aid Officers are the Unsung Heroes of Students
Posted Feb 24, 2021
By Taylor Gill ’24
Financial Aid Awareness Month is almost over, but Otterbein’s team of financial aid counselors are still tirelessly working with prospective students to make an Otterbein education affordable. That’s why financial aid officers are unsung heroes of students, making it possible for students to pursue higher education and find a career that interests and inspires them.
Financial aid can be complex — there are grants, scholarships, work-study jobs, loans, aid for military families, aid from the state government, and aid from the college or career school. Federal work-study is also available to certain students based on the results of their FAFSA. Federal work-study provides part-time employment paid directly to the student.
Otterbein University’s own financial aid counselors Aissata Barry and Rebecca Jones work every day to support students and their families. They know each families’ situation is different.
Barry and Jones aren’t just helping families pay for college they are also helping them learn how to discuss financial opportunities as well. “The ultimate goal is to get families to make informed financial decisions about their child’s education,” Barry says.
To do this, they first guide families through filing for FAFSA which is based off prior-prior year tax returns. But sometimes financial circumstances have changed since the period covered by the FAFSA.
Because this pandemic has been hard on so many people, Jones explains that the Financial Aid Office is also doing more of something called “special circumstance” — instead of looking only at the prior-prior year according to the filed FAFSA, they look at a family’s expected income for the remainder of the year.
“This allows students to hopefully receive more state and federal funding,” Jones says.
A considerable part of financial aid is loans. Much of Barry’s job focuses on educating families about loans, processing loans, certifying loans, and having good relationships with lenders. She helps families and students understand the process of borrowing and how to borrow responsibly.
Barry says it is important to only borrow what you need — never go overboard. Her biggest advice is, “Never borrow without a plan. When you graduate know how you are going to pay off your loan.”
Through the process of working with these families, Barry and Jones have formed relationships with students. They stay in touch and ask how students’ classes are going. Barry says if she sees a student struggling in school, she reminds them that someone is investing in them even when things get tough.
“I always feel so proud of them when I talk to them and I see them grow,” Barry says.
She has seen students that would never pick up a phone call their first year, now call her months before the start of the academic year to discuss financial aid. She gets a view for students’ personal lives and knowledge of what their lives are like outside of the classroom.
“We talk about things from sports to how do you send an email that is written well. To me those are the highlights of my job,” Barry says.
Their biggest advice is for students to reach out to them. “Never be afraid to ask for help, because not asking could be missing out,” Jones says.
File your 2021-2022 FAFSA today:
- Go to studentaid.gov to complete your application.
- IMPORTANT: When completing the FAFSA, make sure you list Otterbein with our federal school code (#003110).
- Check your StudentForms account for important information: Otterbein.verifymyfafsa.com
- Contact Otterbein Student Financial Services at 614-823-1502 or financialaid@Otterbein.edu if you have any questions.