By Rob Wright, March 1 2022 

Like many professions facing staff shortages, financial aid offices in higher education institutions across  the country are struggling with high turnover rates. 

The problem of critical staff shortages began before the global pandemic, but it has been exacerbated by  the many pressures associated with COVID-19. Some financial aid offices have turned to third-party  financial aid staffing, which offer as little or as much support as needed. For example, some provide  limited services to complement office staff or can provide full contract services to help handle financial aid  tasks. 

Here are five reasons financial aid offices face high turnover and difficulty recruiting in a fiercely  competitive job market. 

  1. Financial aid offices constrained by school policies,  pay 

Financial aid offices face unique challenges created by employment policies at higher education  institutions and limits on compensation for new hires. Most institutions require certain background and  skills for job applicants and use a structured pay scale that limits what recruits can be paid. Other industries  have adopted more flexibility in hiring practices to resolve their retention and recruiting problems. 

  1. Remote learning and work changed the office culture 

Remote learning and work impacted a key appeal that attracted many people to work in financial aid  offices. Financial aid employees often start their careers as work-study students or financial aid counselors.  The appeal to many was the in-office culture of camaraderie and a shared passion for helping students.  Shifts to remote work meant staff worked from home and had fewer direct interactions with colleagues and  students. 

  1. Staff leave for better paying positions 

Some financial aid workers moved on to other opportunities that paid better, including jobs within their  own higher education institution. Workers found they could avoid the complicated classification system  within their financial aid office and receive a needed pay increase by accepting a different job with the  same employer in a different department. 

  1. Fewer candidates apply for open positions 

Although the number of job openings continues to increase in financial aid offices, there are fewer  applicants seeking them. Financial aid directors have cited a depleted applicant pool as one of the biggest  challenges they face. To handle a similar problem that has emerged, other industries are rethinking their  job postings, including expanding eligibility requirements and offering specialized training for candidates  who may not have the needed background. 

  1. Location of financial aid offices creates challenge 

As the job market became more competitive in the wake of the pandemic, job seekers no longer gave as  much attention to openings in locations that are more remote or rural. This has created difficulty in 

recruiting talent because applicants are not as willing to move now as they previously were to start their  career. Some recruiters also note that applicants will consider the high cost of living in some metropolitan  areas. With the combination of limited pay and more expensive locations, some financial aid offices find it  difficult to recruit candidates. 

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