A Day in the Life
A Day in the Life of Educational Alliances
with Richard Sapp, TG's Director of Awareness Programs
Our awareness programs focus on bringing student financial aid awareness to the community-at-large. Although not everyone thinks of financial aid awareness as a stage in the life of a loan, arguably students and families must first become aware of the availability of financial aid and the application process before they can receive aid.
As Richard Sapp explains, bringing financial aid awareness to the community is no small charge for a staff of four. "In a typical day, we use a variety of methods to get our message out, and we're always ready to do the work, such as presentations and exhibits at various conferences."
The team is committed to making the community-at-large aware of the benefits of higher education and all of the student financial aid programs available to help pay for that education—including the FFELP.
Educational Alliances relies daily on collaborative efforts with existing federal, state, and community organizations and TG business partners. By working within the framework of partnerships, the team harnesses the power of those who already know and serve particular segments of the community. This helps the team target its message more appropriately and provides instant credibility with audiences who are unfamiliar with TG and the team's mission.
"We attend conferences and provide information to members for dissemination to the particular community that they know and serve best," Richard says.
Some examples of organizations that Educational Alliances partners with include the Department of Education, LULAC, NAACP, TEA, TASFAA, ATLE, TACAC, librarian associations, high school counselor associations, and parent teacher associations.
Timing and Audience
Not only is it important to reach various segments of the population with the awareness message, but it must also be delivered at appropriate times. Critical decision points are occurring earlier and earlier as students make choices about the courses and activities they want to pursue throughout their schooling. So each day, Richard and Educational Alliances have to be well informed of the upcoming student events and deadlines that loom on the horizon.
The timing of awareness information is especially important in working with underserved populations—one of the primary target audiences for Educational Alliances. The message these students need to hear is to think big, that anything is possible, to dream, and to keep their options open.
When targeting underserved populations, Richard points out the possibilities. "I try to help students see what higher education can do for them. I encourage them to think of education as an investment in their future," he said. "And, then, I explain how they can pay for their education. I always encourage them to look for the 'free' money first, but then to realize that loans are an option. I'm not about promoting loans, but I need to make students aware that loans are an available tool that can help them achieve their goals."
Making the Connection
Utilizing assistance from many of its resources, the Educational Alliances team is also committed to providing students and families with information concerning college admissions. As Richard puts it, "Admissions and financial aid go hand-in-hand—it's rare that you're going to have a student who's interested in admissions who's not interested in financial aid."
The TG Mission
Just as outside partnerships are important to achieving awareness, spreading the message is really a TG mission. Each day, partnerships internal to TG contribute heavily to the success of that mission.
"TG Communications," Richard states, "is one of our biggest internal partners. They do press releases and articles, create and maintain online information like that on AIE (Adventures in Education) (www.AdventuresInEducation.org or www.AIE.org), and develop vital material for us."
Another valuable internal partner is TG Customer Assistance—a call center focused on the FFELP. In addition to responding to borrower inquiries about financial aid, Customer Assistance provides Educational Alliances with assistance at many events, making presentations, and utilizing expertise to help promote financial aid awareness.
Two years ago, Customer Assistance was called upon to operate the Texas Financial Aid Information Center (TFAIC) call line. Customer Assistance team members were trained in all aspects of financial aid. Richard's face breaks into a big grin as he proudly rattles off the TFAIC's toll free number, "1-877-782-7322! I just love that number!" This pride is justified and this is obviously a pet topic with Richard. "That number can be called by students and parents to get any financial aid information they need."
The FAFSA Teleconference
Richard's most recent project was the FAFSA Teleconference, Applying for Financial Aid: The FAFSA Process, which was hosted by TG. (The nationally broadcast teleconference was held February 7, 2002, as a part of TG's Financial Aid Awareness Month activities and is a step-by-step guide to completing the FAFSA.)
"We do this to provide a service to students and families, so they don't fill out the form haphazardly or incompletely, and we also do this to help counselors, a primary contact with students," Richard said.
A few days before the teleconference, Richard and other TG team members were busy taking calls, making sure teleconference hosts had received their information packets, and ensuring that the registration process was complete. The teleconference involved two separate tapings, an English-language version and a Spanish-language version.
"I'm pleased that TG can provide this Spanish-language service to members of the community who are not comfortable receiving instructions in English," Richard said. "It's just one more method that we use to get the message out to diverse communities."
The message is clear: Get reliable information to students and families so they can reap the rewards.
"It's very rewarding to make a difference in a student's (or family's) life," Richard said. "At the end of the day, I want students and their parents to be able to make an informed decision about attending a postsecondary institution—and I want that parent to encourage the student—to go on past high school. Too often, students decide to stop attending school because they're getting bad information or they're not getting any information at all. Our goal is to make sure that happens to fewer and fewer students."
For questions about TG's awareness efforts, projects, or tools, contact Richard Sapp at (800) 252-9743, ext. 2865, or send an message to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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