California Institute of the Arts — Director of Financial Aid

California Institute of the Arts (www.calarts.edu) is a highly regarded, nationally ranked independent arts institute offering undergraduate and graduate degrees in a wide range of areas. Located in Valencia, California, CalArts provides more than 70 comprehensive degree programs in the visual, performing, media and literary arts. Programs are optimized for a new kind of artist: one who goes beyond mere aesthetics and expertise and one who thinks about the way their practice engages with the world at large.

CalArts is seeking candidates for an experienced, dynamic, and forward-thinking Director of Financial Aid position. The successful candidate will join the newly imagined enrollment management team as a senior leader under the direction of the Vice President of Enrollment, and partner with faculty and administrators across CalArts’ six world renowned Schools in Art, Critical Studies, Dance, Film/Video, Music and Theater.  With three additional staff, the Director oversees the administration of all student financial aid, including currently over $22 million of institutional scholarship funding.  The Director provides training and leadership to the financial aid staff and works collaboratively within the enrollment division and across campus to support the successful recruitment and retention of undergraduate and graduate students.  

The Director is responsible for the planning and implementation of communication strategies to improve student understanding of financial aid and the overall cost of attending CalArts. They will be responsible for ensuring the staff of the financial aid office provide reliable, detailed, high touch customer service to students, prospective students, and their families.  To this end, the Director will develop streamlined internal processes to maximize the amount of staff time dedicated to counseling students and their families.  

In addition to their work with the administrative offices within the Enrollment unit, the Director works closely with the Deans, Program Directors, and Faculty Enrollment Liaisons within each school to facilitate the deliberate and timely distribution of school-based student aid funds, and to ensure institutional scholarship resources are allocated consistently and strategically in support of a diverse and talented student body.

The Director acts as the primary campus resource regarding best practices in needs analysis, strategic utilization of financial aid for enrollment and retention, and compliance with all federal and state regulations related to student financial aid.  The Director will supervise the staff of the Financial Aid Office that will ensure such compliance. This work includes developing and maintaining institutional policies and procedures and providing education to the CalArts community about these policies and changing regulations.

The Institute seeks to support students’ relationship with their finances in a unified way. The Director will be asked to help lead the research for, and project the feasibility of, a unified “student financial services” model, including student aid and student accounts/bursary functions, to be housed under the Enrollment area. While this model is not currently in place, the proposal of such a model, testing the feasibility of it, and supporting the VP of Enrollment in building consensus and understanding for it should it be feasible, will be a future generative project.

The ideal candidate will be detail oriented, well versed in the thoughtful application of technology, and a highly effective communicator with a primary focus on customer service and the student experience.

Responsibilities, Duties and Priorities:

Administration of Aid Programs

  • Manage the financial aid review and awarding process for new and continuing students, including administration of institutional, state, and federal aid programs;
  • Develop and administer departmental processes to ensure compliance in all aspects of federal and state awarding, including Title IV aid, state grants, federal work study; ensure that all federal and state funds are properly allocated, disbursed and reconciled in adherence to federal and state regulatory requirements;
  • Manage annual setup of Colleague financial aid module; monitor performance of Colleague throughout the year and collaborate with IT as needed to ensure all updates are tested and installed in a timely manner;
  • Maintain comprehensive and current understanding of federal and institutional needs analysis and packaging best practices, and provide training to staff in review of student aid eligibility and packaging of aid funds;
  • Serve as the compliance officer for the financial aid office, including managing audits, researching compliance-related questions, and ensuring adherence with federal and state financial aid compliance requirements; ensure timely submission of annual FISAP and all other federal and state reporting, and supervise SAP review and processing;
  • As needed, act as a backup for other financial aid staff in verification, needs analysis, awards packaging, and student counseling;
  • Manage the financial aid appeals process for new and continuing students.

Leadership and Collaboration

  • Provide day to day oversight of the Office of Financial Aid, including management of the office’s operational budget, and the hiring and direct supervision of all office staff;
  • Ensure seamless, effective and collegial collaboration within the Enrollment area (Admissions and Enrollment Operations/Data);
  • Promote a collegial partnership with, and be the point person for Financial Aid with other campus partners including Finance, Accounting, Institute Technology, and Advancement, as well as with partners across the six schools and the Provost’s Office;
  • Encourage teamwork and promote continuous professional development in financial aid staff;
  • Develop and maintain written departmental processes and procedures, including required compliance policies and procedures, strategies for maintaining high quality service during high work volume periods and written procedures for use of Colleague;
  • Serve in a leadership capacity within the Enrollment unit by providing insight and ideas regarding the implementation and improvement of efficient and high-quality student service;
  • Lead student financial needs through collaboration with the Accounting, Payroll, and Registrar’s Office to develop institutional processes to ensure compliance in cross-functional issues, including VA benefits, timely NSLDS reporting, processing and disbursement of outside scholarships, and federal work study;
  • Collaborate with the Finance, Accounting, Provost, and Advancement Offices to develop clear and consistent procedures relating to named student awards;
  • Collaborate with colleagues supporting Institutional Effectiveness/Research, Enrollment, and Institute Technology to develop and maintain accurate reports for use within the department and across the Institute;
  • Under the guidance of the Vice President of Enrollment, and in collaboration with faculty enrollment liaisons, establish and implement holistic institutional awarding philosophies to support enrollment goals and student success;
  • Serve on administrative committees as needed; serve as Chair of the Financial Aid Appeals Committee;
  • Maintain professional visibility through active participation in professional organizations and financial aid presentations at on- and off-campus events.

Financial Literacy and Student Success

  • Develop and implement strategies to educate students on the cost of their education;
  • Develop and implement a comprehensive financial literacy program for incoming and continuing students to support responsible financial planning and budgeting;
  • Analyze institutional data within the context of broader trends in higher education to identify predictors of student attrition as it relates to financial factors, and propose policies or services to mitigate these factors; utilize EAB and Colleague systems for this work.
  • Develop strategies to promote scholarship opportunities for current and prospective students;
  • Develop and oversee student-oriented financial aid counseling services, including meeting with students and their families; provide appropriate training and resources for staff within the department and across campus to ensure consistent messaging and customer service;
  • Develop and maintain online resources for students and their families, and annual direct communication campaigns.
  • Lead the research for, and project the feasibility of, a unified “student financial services” model, including student aid and student accounts/bursary functions, to be housed under the Enrollment area.

Qualifications, Abilities and Desired Characteristics:
The Director of Financial will have a bachelor’s degree, as well as five or more years of progressive experience in a college financial aid office, including experience managing direct personnel reports within the office. Candidates will be able to demonstrate leadership within a complex and nuanced environment.  Possession of an advanced degree in a related field (arts practice area, education, management, etc.) is strongly preferred. 

Candidates will possess expert technical fluency with common office and financial aid software systems, including MS Office, Adobe Acrobat, the Google suite, and student information systems. Direct Ellucian Colleague experience, and EAB Student Success Collaborative experience, are both preferred. Candidates should also have seasoned experience with data analysis, and the ability synthesize and communicate complex data in order to inform institutional decisions. Direct experience with institutional methodology and complex institutional financial aid modeling will also be a key proficiency.

In addition, the successful candidate will also possess the following abilities and characteristics:

  • Demonstrated ability to create and maintain a respectful, positive work environment;
  • Excellent interpersonal, written, and oral communication skills, including the ability to communicate complex information to a variety of constituencies;
  • Ability to interact effectively with varied internal and external constituencies demonstrating tact, diplomacy, discretion, and good judgment;
  • Self-confidence and self-awareness combined with strong emotional intelligence, made manifest through a sense-of-humor;
  • Comfort acting as a manager of change and leading teams through periods of transition;
  • Proven ability to inspire, coach, motivate, and coordinate staff to achieve goals and sustain a commitment to developing, enhancing, and maintaining a student-oriented culture of service;
  • Ability to contribute to the overall success of the organization as a member of a team within a collaborative decision-making environment;
  • Deft skill with team building and promoting esprit de corps within a close-knit team.
  • Energetic and results oriented with the ability to make data informed decisions collaboratively with an array of Institute stakeholders; 
  • Able to work flexible hours, including nights and weekends, as required to meet the enrollment goals of the Institute during peak periods;
  • Commitment to the mission of CalArts, a passion for collaboration in an artist community, experimentation in the arts, and the drive to implement systems, processes and tactics which reflect best practices in a manner which complements and enhances the unique culture of CalArts; 
  • Excellent organizational and time management skills with the ability to meet deadlines and manage multiple projects with keen and consistent attention to detail;
  • Current expertise in all applicable federal, state and institutional regulations, policies, and guidelines;
  • Knowledge of current best practices and trends in financial aid awarding practices and philosophies;
  • Demonstrated commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusiveness.

CalArts
California Institute of the Arts is renowned internationally as a game-changer in the education of professional artists. The transformative cultural impact of its alumni over the past half-century shows why CalArts is the catalyst for fostering and launching creative talent unlike any other university, school, or conservatory.  

Founded by Walt Disney in 1961, and currently led by President Ravi S. Rajan, CalArts offers comprehensive degree programs across the full range of the visual, performing, media, and literary arts through its six schools. Admission to each of its selective programs is decided primarily on artistic merit and creative promise by members of the faculty who are experts in their disciplines.

CalArts is proud of its diverse student body and deeply committed to supporting the cultural and artistic aspirations of all its students. A commitment to increasing opportunities for underrepresented students and currently disenfranchised groups is necessary, as is the desire to work to support Institute goals of IDEA matters in an ongoing way. A quick look at the stories of alumni and current students, also known as CalArtians, is instructive in its breadth and depth of experience. 

CalArts offers its educational program to student artists through six primary academic areas: 

  • School of Art 
  • School of Critical Studies 
  • Sharon Disney Lund School of Dance 
  • Herb Alpert School of Music 
  • School of Film/Video 
  • School of Theater 

Its 1,500 Students may pursue BFA and MFA degrees through programs in music, art, theater, dance, and film/video, an MFA program in creative writing, an MA program in aesthetics and politics, and a DMA performer-composer program in music. The Institute also offers a variety of undergraduate and advanced certificates; interschool degrees and double majors are available to a small number of advanced students. 

Location
Located 30 miles north of downtown Los Angeles, CalArts occupies 60 acres on hills overlooking the incorporated city of Santa Clarita, which encompasses the towns of Valencia, Newhall, Saugus, and Canyon Country.

The Santa Clarita Valley is surrounded by the Tehachapi Mountains to the north, the San Gabriels to the east, and the Santa Susannas to the west, all visible from campus. Historically, the valley has been devoted to agriculture and cattle ranching, but the last three decades have seen the northward expansion of the Los Angeles metropolitan area. This ongoing development has resulted in new residential communities and an ever-increasing population of more than 175,000.

For more information about Santa Clarita visit https://visitsantaclarita.com/

To Apply
Napier Executive Search is assisting CalArts with this search for Director of Financial Aid. For more information or to nominate someone for this position, contact Robin Reynders (robin.reynders@napiersearch.com) or (Mary Napier (mary.napier@napiersearch.com) for a confidential conversation. Interested candidates should submit a résumé along with a cover letter expressing interest in this position. Additionally, on a separate document candidates should provide the names and contact information of at least three professional references; references will not be contacted without permission. All application materials should be submitted electronically to CalArts@napiersearch.com. The priority deadline is November 15, 2021.  The anticipated start date is winter 2022.

California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) seeks to employ faculty who can engage our diverse communities of learners at the highest levels of artistic endeavor and critical thinking.  Across the range of practitioners from artists to scholars and librarians, we welcome candidates who possess a demonstrated worldview and cultural competency to support teaching and mentoring undergraduate and graduate students of varied backgrounds, capabilities, perspectives, social identities and gender expressions. CalArts is an equal opportunity employer.

Related: