Jeff Scofield, dean of financial aid at Chaminade, knows that looking for help to pay for college can oftentimes seem daunting for students—and their parents. There’s the paperwork. The requirements.
And, of course, there are the questions. Do I qualify? Will I have enough? And where do I begin?
That’s why Scofield, who started at Chaminade in March, is on a mission to simplify the financial aid process at the university. In addition to getting students the financial aid information they need as early as possible, he and his team are working to streamline the process so families can have peace of mind.
He’s also working to let prospective students know financial need shouldn’t be a barrier to attendance.
“The importance of financial aid can’t be understated. It gives students and their families the opportunity to pursue higher education,” Scofield said. “We know if students can’t get their financial hurdles resolved, either they can’t get here to begin with or they can’t stay. The financial piece becomes more of a burden. We’re trying to remove barriers so students can concentrate on their studies.”
That’s critically important at Chaminade, where 97% of undergraduates get some type of financial aid.
During the 2020-21 academic year, nearly $16 million in aid was distributed to Chaminade undergraduates at the university, with an average of $15,000 in grants and scholarships awarded to each student. In addition, students received federal loans, alternative loans and federal work-study.
Scofield also has a message for the community: every donation to the University helps.
“There’s plenty of need. And for some students, it’s not thousands of dollars they need to make the difference, it’s hundreds of dollars,” Scofield said. “We can help make up that difference for students.”
Scofield comes to Chaminade’s Financial Aid office with nearly 40 years of experience in higher education, including most recently as the assistant vice president of student financial services at Seattle University. Prior to that, he served as director of financial aid at the University of Hawaii at Hilo.
It was that time on Hawaii Island that solidified his love for the islands and its people.
When he learned Chaminade was looking for a financial aid dean, he jumped at the chance to return, immediately doing his homework on the university and its mission. What he found, he said, was an institution that “gets it” when it comes to financial aid—and that’s not always easy to find.
Chaminade, he said, understands that financial aid is core to helping students achieve their dreams.
It’s about excellence as much as it is about equity.
“Everybody I’ve talked to here has said, ‘Oh this is so important,’” he said.
Scofield leads a five-member financial aid team at Chaminade. His first order of business at the University, he said, was “listening more than talking.” He wanted to understand what was working when it came to financial aid, what wasn’t working and what needed to be fixed first.
He said he quickly realized that his highest priority needed to be streamlining the financial aid application process, and moving a long list of paper forms online. “If we can get more things automated and processes streamlined, it gives us more time to spend time with that student who’s really in an emergency,” he said. “Or we can have more time for student counseling and outreach.”
He acknowledged that revamping the system won’t happen overnight.
But the Financial Aid team has already made substantive changes that students and parents will notice. And he said the University is also working with a third-party vendor to debut an easy-to-use scholarship administration portal—a one-stop-shop for applying for scholarships and getting updates on awards.
He said he’s also eyeing a host of procedures to simplify and forms to digitize.
“It’s about doing anything we can,” he said, “to improve and speed up our processing.”