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Financial Aid team earns prestigious national awards for service in higher education

Financial Aid team earns prestigious national awards for service in higher educationCCRI’s Dean of Student Financial Assistance and Scholarships Kelly Morrissey

The Community College of Rhode Island earned two prestigious awards this year from the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA) at its annual National Conference for its work in the financial aid profession and higher education community.

Kelly Morrissey, CCRI’s Dean of Student Financial Assistance and Scholarships and current past-President of the Rhode Island Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (RIASFAA), earned one of six Regional Leadership Awards while the college earned one of two NASFAA's Gold Star Awards for its Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) initiatives, which provide comprehensive support services to help students overcome financial, academic, and personal barriers to success that were exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The Financial Aid team is thrilled to be recognized at the national level for our institution’s work on the Satisfactory Academic Progress initiatives,” Morrissey said. “The outcomes of this ongoing project are a result of a cross-collaboration between many teams to enhance the efficiency of the SAP process and remove barriers for students to return to CCRI if they have experienced academic struggles. Through focused attention from student success coaches and updating previously manual processes to automated solutions, we are able to support students upon their return and allow them to receive federal and state aid in addition to the Fresh Start Scholarship.

“The EASFAA Regional Leadership Award is a result of my financial aid peers recognizing my many years of involvement in state, regional, and national professional associations.  It is through these connections that we learn about best practices in the industry and put them in place to help ensure the financial and academic success of CCRI students.”

NASFAA is a nonprofit membership organization that represents more than 29,000 financial aid professionals at approximately 3,000 colleges, universities, and career schools across the country and is the only national association with a primary focus on student aid legislation, regulatory analysis, and training for financial aid administrators.

Morrissey earned her Regional Leadership Award as a representative of the Eastern Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (EASFAA) region for “[exhibiting] high integrity and character, [showing] creative leadership, and [inspiring] and [encouraging] others to actively participate in professional development.

The Gold Star Award recognizes “innovative ideas” in the financial aid arena and is awarded to individuals, colleges, or regional or state associations. CCRI earned a Gold Star Award in 2024 for its work in helping students maintain Satisfactory Academic Progress, or SAP, to remain eligible for federal aid. SAP is based on quantitative and qualitative measurements (i.e., credits earned compared to credits attempted and grade point average) in addition to the timeframe in which programs of study are completed.

According to the NASFAA, the college’s “advising, counseling, training, outreach, and the addition of student success coaches” helped increase the number of financial aid appeals processed, reduce SAP-related aid suspensions, improve student retention rates, and promote academic achievement.

CCRI’s Financial Aid department hosts myriad events, notably its virtual and in-person “Financial Aid Back On Track” workshops, to assist students with SAP and other important requirements. The workshops are opportunities for students to meet with CCRI’s SAP coordinators and file financial aid appeals toward reinstating their eligibility for federal and/or state aid for future semesters.

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