Making the Case for a Fully Staffed Office

hurley It might be tempting to compare your aid office’s staffing level with that of the college down the street. But it’s better to compare the staff you have with the one you need, writes Patricia Hurley in a guest post. Ms. Hurley, associate dean of financial aid at Glendale Community College, in California, is scheduled to present on the topic this week during the annual meeting of the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators, in Las Vegas.

In these tight budget times, one of the toughest tasks a manager faces is justifying staffing levels. A manager may need to pull together data to argue against staffing cuts. Requesting new positions will be even harder.

Advocating for a robust staff can be daunting. One way to start is to research how your office compares with those at other colleges of similar type, size, and function.

But if you are at a community college or small private college, segments of higher education that are historically underfinanced and understaffed, that might not be enough. You may be comparing your office to a norm that is inherently inadequate.

Besides, even though every college’s financial-aid office has to fulfill federal and state mandates, staffing needs may differ among institutions due to the level of automation or the number of programs assigned to a single area.

With that in mind, I recommend establishing your institutional staffing norm based on functions and workload. This takes more work than a comparison study but should lead to better results.

Creating a simple chart itemizing all of the office functions and the number of hours it takes to accomplish them can result in a clearer picture of what your office needs to do and how many people the work will take. To make the chart, start by reviewing your staff’s job descriptions. Work with staff members to understand how long they spend on each aspect of their jobs.

Other things to keep in mind as you map out your staffing needs include:

  • What functions are required by the federal and state governments?
  • What would happen to your college and its students if a function were not done properly or not done at all?
  • What time is needed to keep staff members trained?
  • Are additional staff members needed for vacation coverage, peak traffic times, and training?

After making the chart and weighing those questions, you will have a gap analysis of how the staff you have compares with the staff you need. That sort of data and analysis will help to make your case.

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