Today marks the beginning of my sixth week in the Financial Aid Office at the University of Denver. I’ve had the privilege of working in financial aid and admissions since 1988, and am now thrilled to be back in Colorado and to be at DU. Our world of financial aid and enrollment is filled with joys and challenges. Here are some of my reflections on what we do.
The joys. It’s great to work every day in an office where the central function is to provide access and opportunity to students and families, to help fulfill dreams of a college degree for undergraduate and graduate students, to create a space for listening to and addressing the concerns of students and families on important financial matters, and to open the doors to first-generation and low income students just as others did for me when I entered college. Living and working in the world of financial aid means to live life as an integrated whole by engaging within the broader community to address educational improvements from pre-k through 12, building bridges for post-secondary opportunities for all students, and directing our resources and our students to help build the greater good. DU’s vision is to be a great private university dedicated to the public good. The mission includes active partnerships with local and global communities to contribute to a sustainable common good. Financial aid plays a key role in sustaining and building this vision and mission. The University provides enormous resources to make a DU education possible and affordable for thousands of students.
The challenges. As you might expect, many of the joyful topics also present some of the most vexing challenges. How can we provide enough aid for students whose families are least able to afford a DU education? How can we make sure our students borrow only at sustainable levels and help them understand the choices about debt and repayment options? How can we gather more resources for financial aid and maintain affordability for all students regardless of need? Even when we know or understand the barriers to access and affordability, how do we change our thinking and our procedures to move forward? How do we remove barriers to attending DU, including those as simple as the financial aid application process to the more complex state and national policies on funding higher education?
Our new chancellor is engaging the community both locally and across the globe to address many exciting and important topics, many of which will have a direct impact on the future of financial aid at DU. As we Imagine DU in 2025 and beyond, we are addressing the Student Experience including Student Access and Support, and we are speaking and acting on issues of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusive Excellence. We’ll examine new ways to enhance our undergraduate recruitment by centralizing our endowed financial aid funds, and we’re emphasizing the need for additional undergraduate and graduate financial aid to increase access and diversity. In our own office, we continue to find ways to make the application simpler. We also are seeking ways to maintain and improve our reputation for providing excellent customer service to students and families and for providing important tools to help them build realistic and sustainable financial plans to help fund a DU education.
These are just a few of the joys and challenges of being at DU and working in financial aid. And of course, there is always that added bonus of being in the Mile-High City at the base of the Rocky Mountains.
John Gudvangen - Director of Financial Aid and Assistant Vice Chancellor for Enrollment