TG's 14th annual conference draws record crowd
A record-setting crowd of 734 financial aid and higher education professionals gathered in Austin from April 18 - 20 to participate in the 2006 TG Conference, Caring for Our Generation and the Next. The largest TG Conference yet featured more than 40 sessions on assorted industry and professional development topics and top-notch speakers like David Dunn, acting undersecretary for the Department of Education (ED); Dallas Martin, president of the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA); and Brett Lief, president of the National Council of Higher Education Loan Programs (NCHELP).
Sue McMillin, TG President and CEO, is joined on stage
by (l-r) Ruben Esquivel, vice-chair of TG's Board of Directors; Cliff Neel, Baylor University; and Zack Workman, Herring Bank.
Most importantly, TG's customers were extremely pleased with this year's conference and its training opportunities. "TG is a great resource. They helped us work with all of our lenders to simplify our alternative loan process," said Cara Hendricks of Southern Methodist University.
Setting the stage
This year's conference took its inspiration from what drives many who work in financial aid — the desire to pass on an empowering education, one generation to the next. The conference opening session helped to frame this idea in several different ways — with a look back at 25 years in cultural, technological, and TG history; with a thank you to TG's business partners for its first guarantee 25 years ago; and with a commemoration of two exceptional mentors working in financial aid today.
Some opening highlights included:
- The two mentor honorees were Terry Bazán, financial aid director at Austin Community College, and Taft Benson, regional vice president at Collegiate Funding Services. Both were moved by their nominations and extended gratitude to all those dedicated to working with students.
- Ruben Esquivel, vice chair for TG's Board of Directors, helped set the stage for the conference by describing his experience as a Cuban immigrant arriving in the U.S. with his sister and just the clothes in his suitcase. His emotional description served to underscore the advantages that an education can bring.
- TG marked the silver anniversary of its first guarantee by recognizing its business partners on that loan: Baylor University and Herring Bank of Amarillo, Texas. Cliff Neel represented Baylor University and Zack Workman accepted a commemorative plaque on behalf of Herring Bank.
- TG wrapped up the opener by thanking conference sponsors in a novel, "cross-generational" way. Various team members and their children were invited on stage to provide special commemorative pins to sponsors. The children served as a reminder of the many future generations that TG will help to go on to postsecondary education.
Closing on a high note
On the final day of the conference, customers were treated to speakers that offered two things: practical knowledge on the latest legislative changes to higher education, and practical wisdom, in the form of Coach Ken Carter's take on work and life.
Dallas Martin (NASFAA), Elise Nowikowski (Nelnet), and
Brett Lief (NCHELP) answer audience questions about recent legislation.
To address industry changes, TG invited David Dunn, acting undersecretary and chief of staff for ED, who spoke on the direction of higher education given the recent passage of the Higher Education Reconciliation Act of 2005 (HERA).
Following David's presentation, Dallas Martin, president of NASFAA; Elise Nowikowski, managing director of policy for Nelnet; and Brett Lief, president of NCHELP, gave an overview of the practical implications of the HERA.
Energized by Coach Carter
The charismatic Coach Ken Carter provided the finale to the TG Conference, offering a rousing keynote address on Thursday afternoon that brought customers to their feet and left them wanting more. Coach Carter, whose life story is the inspiration for the movie Coach Carter starring Samuel L. Jackson, shared his take on life with the passion of an evangelical minister.
TG golf tournament and Financial Aid 4K results
The TG Conference's slogan for this year — "Relax, Retool, and Recharge" — worked like a formula. Attendees who followed it could clear their mind of office distractions, learn more about student aid, and return to work energized with information and a fresh commitment to helping students. To provide the relaxation part of this equation, TG offered some friendly athletic competition with the TG Golf Classic and the Financial Aid 4K Fun Run/Walk.
TG Golf Classic — On Monday, April 17, 81 golfers forming 22 teams endured 101-degree temperatures to participate in this year's Golf Classic. The tournament, which was open to both customers and TG team members, was held at the Teravista Golf Club in Round Rock. Jim Anderson and Jackey Ey of Texas Tech, Mike Fuller of Student Capital, and Barry Lawson of College Loan Corporation took home first place with a team score of 61. Longest drive went to Terry Mucha of UT Austin. And the award for "closest to the pin" went to Rod Castillo of Titan Solutions.
Financial Aid 4K Fun Run/Walk — TG had a record 52 participants for this year's 4K. School and lender customers along with TG team members assembled in the lower lobby of the Austin Hilton on Wednesday at 6:30 a.m. The group ran or walked a 2.5 mile loop of the Town Lake Hike and Bike Trail. Registration fees for the run/walk were provided to a local chapter of Reading Is Fundamental (RIF), which introduces kids to the rewards of reading at an early age. About $1,000 was raised for this year's charity. Following is a list of early finishers.
School and lender customers rose by 6:30 a.m. to
complete this year's Financial Aid 4K Fun Run/Walk.
Men: Darron Grussendorf, TG; Bennie Hayden, TG ; and Vincent Carales, TG
Women: Monica Comeaux, University of Houston; Jennifer Phillips, North Texas Higher Education Authority; Tracy Stine, Sallie Mae; and Sherry Hildebrand, Mapping Your Future
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TG EFT enhancements: disbursement customization and snooze
Looking for more flexibility in your disbursement scheduling process? Then look no further, because TG recently introduced two new options for schools to customize their disbursement process for all loans disbursed through TG's electronic funds transfer (EFT) process.
Disbursement customization is a new profile option that will allow schools to specify a day(s) of the week on which they wish to receive EFT disbursements for each loan type. For example, a school can choose to receive all Stafford disbursements on Monday, PLUS disbursements on Wednesday, and alternative disbursements on Friday — or any other combination they choose.
To establish a customized disbursement schedule, a school will need to contact its TG account executive. The school's TG account executive will assess the possible options with the school and assist the school in completing a new EFT Profile form to authorize TG to disburse on the selected day(s).
Another enhancement that has been implemented to TG's EFT is disbursement snooze. Two types of snooze will be offered: scheduled snooze and immediate snooze. A scheduled snooze will allow a school to suspend all disbursement activity during a specified period of time. The snooze dates can be scheduled up to one year in advance for those periods of time when a school knows its offices will be closed. While a school is on snooze, the school will receive no disbursements; however, EFT will still process returns. To request a scheduled snooze, a school will need to contact its TG account executive. Again, the TG account executive will discuss choosing snooze dates and provide guidance on defining snooze periods.
The immediate snooze feature should be used for unexpected or emergency situations, such as a natural disaster, a fire, or some other unforeseen situation. An immediate snooze feature will allow a school to stop funds from moving beginning with the next funding cycle. Due to the unexpected nature of the immediate snooze, no scheduled end date will be scheduled. Therefore, a school must call and request the immediate snooze to be lifted in order to resume the receipt of funds. To request an immediate snooze, a school should contact the TG product support group at firstname.lastname@example.org as soon as it is aware of the unexpected or emergency situation.
TG remains committed to providing flexibility, innovation, and choice for our customers. For more information about TG's new EFT features, options, and processes, please refer to Shoptalk Online edition 340 and edition 334, or you can contact your TG account executive.
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Meet Karen Priputin, TG's lead in product management
Schools and lenders process the majority of their loans electronically, which is a boon to an industry that guarantees well more than $40 billion in loans each year. In fact, given the right set of tools, every phase of student loan processing — from award to repayment — can be handled with the click of a mouse. TG's suite of electronic products offers this type of "virtual office" where schools and lenders can package awards, offer loan counseling, track applications, make disbursements, monitor default, and much more.
To create its suite of products, TG relies on a specialized team that understands both student financial aid and the process of software product development. This group — the product management team — serves as the voice of the customer. The team articulates what schools and lenders need and they work to translate that need into a software system or feature.
Karen Priputin heads TG's product management team. She brings to her work almost a decade of experience in higher education, along with a foundation in many of the special knowledge areas important to managing student loans, such as regulatory policy, Common Manual protocol, CommonLine standards, and the business practices of a financial aid office.
Her comprehensive background provides Karen insight as she tries to wed business process with software technology. It also allows her to collaborate with an assortment of team players — from customers to software developers — who help build TG's systems.
Collaboration truly is the essence of effective product management, but other factors also have helped Karen. "I think that having a good understanding of TG's business model and processes, strong communications skills, and an inquisitive nature all have prepared me for my role in product management," Karen said. "It's a challenging assignment, but I like the pace and change of it."
Recently, Shoptalk Online asked Karen a few questions to learn more about product management at TG and her work on the team.
Shoptalk Online: Describe what you and the product management team do.
Karen: We try to provide our customers with technology to simplify their office routines. Our priority is to build systems that cut time and expense from administering financial aid. For example, we integrate our products so that schools and lenders can manage every aspect and every phase of a loan online. We take advantage of Web-based technology to make communicating with students about financial aid easier. We also keep our products up-to-date with any changes to CommonLine standards or Common Manual policies.
In terms of how we work, the product management team collaborates with an extended team of software developers, business analysts, testers, and customers, since our customers often provide feedback about our products. Together, we oversee development and enhancements to TG's various products, including AdvanTG Web, TG Loans By Web, TG Awards By Web, Electronic Funds Transfer, and others. Although that sounds like a lot, we work well together so that I never feel that the product management team is an island unto itself.
I also serve as the TG Users Group (TUG) liaison. TUG members provide feedback about our products. So my day-to-day activities vary, which is what makes this area of work so interesting. I never have a boring minute! I routinely discuss a variety of subjects with software developers, other business units within TG, and our customers, so I frequently have to change my train of thought. But quite honestly, I wouldn't have it any other way.
Shoptalk Online: How does product management work at TG?
Karen: Perfecting our products is a team effort that extends beyond the product management area. Everyone at TG that supports our products or who has contact with TG's customers plays a role in helping us meet our customers' needs. If there were a typical process for enhancing our products, it would run something like this: analyze and prioritize requests or ideas for change; write business requirements for the change (a document that describes and substantiates the need for change); talk with systems analysts about these requirements; and write a proposal or project plan for implementing them. After the work of development is done, we then perform user acceptance testing, where we test the products. We also provide training to internal and external users, and communicate with customers regarding the upcoming changes.
Shoptalk Online: What are you working on now?
Karen: We just finished testing for TG's Funding Initiative project, which was implemented the weekend of March 25. This project introduced hourly change transaction processing, hourly roster processing, school disbursement customization options, enhanced reporting features, and next-day funding, by which borrowers apply for a loan and funds are disbursed the next day for loans that are guaranteed. In addition, the entire product management team is working on preparing business requirements as they relate to the various changes that occurred with the Higher Education Reconciliation Act. These changes affect all of our products, and they require a lot of analysis, as well as communication and interaction with TG's various development teams.
Shoptalk Online: How do you interact with customers?
Karen: Most of my conversations with customers have been by telephone. As much as possible, I try to help them use our products to solve a problem or streamline a process. At times, we do train our customers on TG products, although the majority of training is performed by TG's account executives and by members of TG's business integration team. I believe it is very important for our product managers to interact with our customers whenever possible, whether via WebEx, teleconference, or phone. This interaction is crucial in ensuring that TG's products meet our customers' needs.
As a TUG liaison, I interact with the TUG Board members, 10 energetic and extremely knowledgeable individuals who share with us challenges that our business partners face and who help make our products better by providing feedback on current products and future product enhancements.
Shoptalk Online: What's most fulfilling about your work?
Karen: The most fulfilling part of my work is that I know that TG has great products on the market and that the product management team plays an integral role in maintaining and growing these products. I also find it extremely gratifying that every day I learn something new about our products, our customers' processes, the industry itself, or even about TG. Perhaps most importantly, being part of the TG team and being able to participate in creative and collaborative efforts is very fulfilling.
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Question of the week
Q: If a borrower has two federal loans, each with a different lender, but both loans are serviced by the same servicer, does that borrower have the option to consolidate with any lender that participates in the Federal Consolidation Loan Program or is the borrower subject to the single-holder rule?
A: The federal regulations in 34 CFR 682.200(b) define a "holder" as "an eligible lender owning a FFELP loan, including a Federal or State agency or an organization or corporation acting on behalf of such an agency and acting as a conservator, liquidator, or receiver of an eligible lender*."
Thus, if each of the borrower's lenders meets the definition of a "holder," even though both lenders contract with the same servicer (defined in the Common Manual as "an entity that enters into a contract with a program participant to administer any aspect of its participation in a Title IV program"), the borrower has multiple holders and is not subject to the single-holder rule. The borrower can choose to consolidate with any lender that participates in the Federal Consolidation Loan Program.
* Note: Webster's defines the terms conservator, liquidator, and receiver as follows:
- Conservator: one that preserves from injury or violation: PROTECTOR; an official charged with the protection of something affecting public welfare and interests
- Liquidator: one that liquidates; especially: an individual appointed by law to liquidate assets
- Receiver: TREASURER; (1): a person appointed to hold in trust and administer property under litigation (2): a person appointed to settle the affairs of a business involving a public interest or to manage a corporation during reorganization
Do you have a question?
If you have a question that needs an answer, feel free to Ask TG. Ask TG is TG's online query tool for borrowers, schools, and lenders. Ask TG includes a database of frequently asked questions about financial aid, student loan processing, and TG's products and services. To submit a question to Ask TG, visit http://tgslc.custhelp.com.
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