Jessika Smith is a Financial Aid Expert Serving Colleges and Universities
At Attain Partners, our financial aid and compliance experts bring decades of direct experience working in education and a successful track record serving the nation’s top colleges and universities. As a testament to our expertise, Attain Partners proudly serves more than 70 of the nation’s top 100 research institutions—including 100% of the Ivy League schools—through the variety of Compliance services we provide.
We sat down with financial aid expert Jessika Smith to learn more about why this field is so impactful and how she shares her expertise.
Attain Partners (AP): How did you get into financial aid?
Jessika Smith (JS): I like to say that financial aid found me. As an undergraduate student, I worked in the Registrar’s and Academic Affairs Offices. A few years after graduating, I ended up in a role in higher education. I hadn’t planned for it and it wasn’t even the job I had originally applied for! Long story short, that job was one of the best opportunities I have ever had. It gave me insight into the entire umbrella of enrollment services. It was the people, place, and culture of this early role that allowed me to develop and grow my passion for financial aid.
AP: What did you do before joining Attain Partners?
JS: I came from a higher education institution—I had been working as its Financial Aid and Enrollment Services Manager.
AP: What brought you to Attain Partners?
JS: I feel like I found Attain Partners at exactly the right time. Super cheesy, I know! I love continuing to work in higher education, specifically financial aid, but consulting is also an opportunity for expansion that feels somewhat limitless. Attain Partners’ scope is greater than just financial aid, and I hope to be able to grow and expand parallel with that.
AP: Which of our seven core values speaks to you the most?
JS: Trick question! Our seven core values feel like seasons or phases to me. Each is equally important as the other but time and place sway which “speaks to you the most.” Right now, I am in the Execute with Discipline and Team for Speed phase. As a new employee working with a newer client, these two values feel very important to delivering a top-notch product in a way that supports, educates, and empowers our clients.
AP: What do you like most about the work you do?
JS: Each day is different, I like that. Working in financial aid is dynamic and fluid. Some days, the best part is working directly with the students; while other days, it’s the creative problem-solving or getting into the nitty-gritty of the data and regulations.
AP: What are the biggest ways you’ve seen financial aid efforts impact organizations?
JS: Financial aid is like the tree trunk of higher education and often goes unnoticed as such. The roots are the administrative offices and faculty/staff that make an institution run; almost all connect back to the trunk. The branches are the students, they need the support of the roots and the trunk to grow, change, and succeed. I might be biased, but I think the financial aid office has the biggest impact on the overall operation and success of an institution and its students’ experiences.
AP: What is the most challenging aspect of your job?
JS: Time! We’re in the stage where it’s clicking for the client. They really appreciate what we are doing and want to hear our recommendations. It can be hard to step away and shut off “work mode” at the end of the day. As the saying goes, Rome wasn’t built in a day!
AP: What do you read and watch to keep current?
JS: The National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA) puts out a daily newsletter as well as a weekly podcast Off-The-Cuff. In addition, there are a variety of other resources and publications that are accessible through subscriptions and directly online. When possible, I try to venture out of just financial aid and dive deeper into education, leadership, and diversity.
Maintaining an efficient, compliant, and service-oriented financial aid operation is no small task for colleges and universities, yet the need to do so has never been greater. Having a high-functioning financial aid office plays a key role in helping institutions meet their strategic enrollment and retention goals while also avoiding potential costly liabilities. Our tailored financial aid consulting solutions are designed to meet the unique needs of each client. Using comprehensive financial aid assessments, we provide schools with a customized action plan to streamline processes and improve efficiencies while maintaining compliance with federal regulations.
Learn More – Jessika Smith
Jessika Smith is a Director of Financial Aid. She holds a Master’s degree from Northeastern University in Higher Education Administration. With over a decade of experience, she excels in providing exceptional service to students and administrative guidance to schools.
Interested in speaking directly with Jessika? Fill out this form to be connected!
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