Nicholas Novello, one of two candidates running for Cal State Fullerton Director of Financial Aid, discussed his vision for the office during an open forum on Thursday.
As director, Novello said he would empower staff and always have a sense of what is going on in the office. His priorities for improvements are to create a strategic financial aid communications plan, a centralized scholarship application and electronic submission of financial aid documents.
Novello is currently the associate director for the Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships at Cal Poly Pomona. He plans to use some of its tactics to improve CSUF.
Novello said he would like to use a program at CSUF for students to submit their financial aid forms electronically, which is similar to Cal Poly Pomona’s system. Instead of requiring the counseling team to go through several pages of documents, the system would automatically pull out any inconsistencies in the submitted forms, which would speed up the verification process.
As soon as students submit their documents through this program, they will receive their award notification within a couple of hours or a day, Novello said.
Novello also said having one application for scholarships would be much more effective for students.
Currently, students at CSUF have to complete multiple applications, one for each scholarship, Novello said. This time-consuming process often discourages students, he said, but a centralized scholarship form would be much more effective for students and University Advancement.
Cal Poly Pomona currently uses AcademicWorks, a scholarship management firm, which has helped the amount of scholarships students received from the financial aid office increase from 2,000 in 2011 to more than 7,000 in 2015, Novello said.
Part of his aspiring strategic communications plan is to evaluate several policies related to financial aid to make sure they are clear, understandable and accessible from a central location. This includes making sure that web pages have appropriate links to further inform students.
Novello said he would like to consult with a diverse array of students to see if the information that the financial aid office gives is cohesive.
Today’s students are overloaded with information from the internet and it is important that the financial aid office sends clear and timely notification, Novello said.
He would like to collaborate with university partners to see more financial literacy sessions so students can avoid accumulating debt and bad credit, Novello said.
He had worked with CSUF President Mildred García when she was president at CSU Dominguez Hills. He is inspired by her vision for CSUF.
“It did not surprise me when I heard that her motto for the campus is ‘Titans Reach Higher,’” Novello said.
Novello lives in Orange County and is a first generation college graduate. He is the first in his family to receive a master’s degree.
“Financial aid made my experience, my success in life possible,” Novello said. “It is something that I feel very deeply about and has motivated me to continue a career on this path.”
Even though CSUF distributes fewer scholarships than other CSUs its size, Novello said he can work to advance the university and make it into a leader.
“I want us to be a nationwide model for financial aid best practices,” Novello said, adding that that CSUF is the largest CSU campus and one of the most diverse.
“We are the future of what this country is going to look like. We should be leading the charge of that and I would love to be a part of that,” Novello said.