Today for our Staff Spotlight story we’re sitting down Lisa Brooker, our Director of Financial Aid, to learn more about her and this important department.
Schoolcraft College: Hello, Lisa! Please tell us a little about your educational and professional background, what led you to Schoolcraft College and how long you’ve been with us.
Lisa Brooker: My journey with financial aid began in 2006 when I was hired in as a student assistant. I loved the atmosphere in the office and in the College. I had great co-workers and was learning so much in such a fast-paced office. I remained working in the office part time after I completed my Associate degree at Schoolcraft.
Once I completed my Bachelor’s in Psychology at Eastern Michigan University, I wasn’t sure where I wanted to end up, but I didn’t hesitate to accept a full-time position in the office while I figured it out. It was around that time I started really working with students. I could really relate to them since I had so recently gone through the same processes I was helping them navigate. I started to see a future in this career, and while making my way through the office, I got my MBA from Baker College. I am now settling into my fourth month as the position of Director of Financial Aid.
Schoolcraft College: From a high level, can you please explain what the Financial Aid department does? And also what it doesn’t do?
Lisa Brooker: In the simplest of terms: Financial Aid awards students grants, scholarships, work-study and student loans. To break that down a little, we first help students and their families navigate through the application processes. This often begins with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which is an annual application that is the basis for most types of student aid.
Once that is complete we can better get a picture of what types of aid might be an option for individual students. We work under federal regulations, college policies, and timelines to move students through the process of each various award. Throughout the year we have various processes to ensure students are maintain eligibility and we make adjustments to awards, as needed.
We work closely with the Student Accounts Office, but they have very different functions. This can sometimes cause confusion because we share an office. They are responsible for payment plans, third-party payments, MET (Michigan Education Trust), MESP (Michigan Education Savings Program), and past-due balances.
Schoolcraft College: What does a “typical” day look like for you and your team? What are the busiest times during the academic year?
Lisa Brooker: Days can look very different in our office depending what time of year it is and where we are in the current semester. The summer (most specifically late July – early September) is our busiest time. We receive the most applications and see the most students during this time. Most of our awards run on an annual basis. So we get more students at the start of fall than any other semester, as many of them only need to see us once per year.
This is when documents can take the longest to process since we have more coming into the office than other times in the year.
This is also when we see longer wait times for our phone calls. As soon as Fall classes start, we are gearing up for Winter aid applications. After classes are underway each semester, we monitor changes such as students who change their schedule or earn a No Show (NS) grade by not showing up to classes. This often results in reductions or recalculations in a student’s aid. Once grades post, we verify that students are eligible for future semesters by meeting academic progress requirements.
Schoolcraft College: What piece of advice do you have for students, parents and others as they begin the process with financial aid? What’s the best way to get started? And what are some tips to avoid frustration?
Lisa Brooker: First, ask questions and do not wait. We are here to help and want our students to understand what they need to do to remain eligible for aid. We understand these processes are complex, can seem intimidating or even violating to some. We can only answer questions if they are asked.
We also recognize that things change, last-minute decisions are made, and things are forgotten. Financial Aid is very time-driven; there are deadlines we have to stick by and things that take us time to complete as well. The earlier you can get the process started, typically the less stressful it will be. File your FAFSA early each year, even if you do not think you will qualify. That opens you up to more opportunities once completed.
Questions do not end when you get awarded. As I mentioned, things are constantly changing throughout the year and semester. If you want to withdraw from a class – talk to us first. If you are struggling – let us know, we can see what options may be best for you to consider. Finally, be mindful to check your SC mail and Ocelot Access. Most all of our communication goes to one or both of those resources and it is important to read (and understand) notifications that go out.
Schoolcraft College: What are some highlights for you so far in your new role?
Lisa Brooker: I am very lucky with my team – both my staff and other offices we work with. One thing that sets Schoolcraft apart in my mind is that the people want to be here. Our staff wants to work here and wants to help our students. Our students want to be here as it is a great place to get an education. We see students in all walks of life, and I’ve found we can all learn from each other.
Being in this role I am able to make decisions and influence change. I have never lost the relatability I have with our students and fully remember how daunting college can be. I carry that with me and hope to be a part of positive changes for our students from that perspective.
Schoolcraft College: What’s the best way for people to reach Financial Aid?
Lisa Brooker: Come see us! We are in the office Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. You also can call us at 734-462-4433, or email us at [email protected]. We host and are part of various events around campus, including help with FAFSAs and other aid-related presentations. If there is a topic you would like to see covered – send us an email and we can see if we can work it in.
Schoolcraft College: Thank you, Lisa! Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Lisa Brooker: Thank you for allowing me this time and to share a little about me and my office. As I’ve mentioned – don’t hesitate to come see us with any and all questions! It’s great seeing faces back around campus!