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Financial aid director starts amid budget cuts

With a steady stream of new students, the summer is usually the busiest time for the financial aid department. During this season, the department has received a new director who hopes to reduce the impact budget cuts have on students.

Billie Jo Hamilton started her position as financial aid director in the beginning of June. She said that budget cuts throughout USF make it difficult to give students the resources and quality service they need, but she believes, that the financial aid staff will help diminish this stress.

“Everything we do is accentuated at this time of year and we’re a large institution,” she said. “The staff makes it less of an issue.”

When President Judy Genshaft announced the University’s actions to shave $50.4 million off its annual budget, she guaranteed that University Police and financial aid would avoid the cuts made in this plan. Students receiving need- or merit-based scholarships will also be unaffected, Hamilton said.

Although the budget cuts will not directly affect the department, Hamilton said she expects other cuts around the University will. She said that it is too early to tell what the full effects will be, but she and the financial aid staff are working hard to ensure that budget cuts do not hinder the quality of services provided to students.

“I think everyone is struggling with the budget cuts. Our goal is to provide high-quality services to students. The staff has been great to step up and take responsibility,” Hamilton said.

Leellen Brigman, associate vice president for enrollment planning and management, said that since most students keep track of their financial aid online, the staff has more time to help students tackle larger problems.

“Financial aid has had significant technological improvements,” Brigman said. She said these improvements are helpful because it is unrealistic to hire new staff in any department.

“We want the human resources on the front lines to help students with the big issues,” Brigman said. She believes Hamilton has the experience to help the staff and students deal with these issues.

“She certainly has the experience … to address the issues that are involved in providing quality customer service,” Brigman said.

Prior to being at USF, Hamilton served as financial aid director at Southern Illinois University. She was also the president-elect of the Midwest region of the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators.

“She has been in the leadership role of financial aid at four institutions,” said Brigman. “We sought her out through a national search and we interviewed two candidates. We felt Ms. Hamilton was the best fit to the University.”

Brigman said it is Hamilton’s national engagement in the profession and the strong leadership skills she exemplified at other institutions that make her qualified for the position.

“She’s only been here about three weeks. She’s just hit the ground running,” said Brigman. “We’re very pleased she chose to come here.”

Hamilton oversees all financial aid for all USF campuses and is also responsible for the reports sent by the department to the federal and state governments.