Mason’s Office of Student Financial Aid Helps Thousands Fund Their Education

Posted: November 28, 2005 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Christopher Anzalone

George Mason’s Office of Student Financial Aid (OSFA), the primary point of contact for students applying for federal, state, institutional and outside financial assistance, fielded nearly 53,000 telephone calls, received 21,712 office visitors and processed more than 21,000 financial aid applications during the 2004-05 academic year.

The result? More than 12,400 undergraduate, graduate, professional and nondegree students received $110 million in financial aid last year. All in all, 28 percent of the university’s students received some type of need-based assistance.

According to OFSA Director Jevita de Freitas, who heads a hardworking staff of 19 full-time members and seven federal work-study students, the office’s mission is more than offering services, programs and awards to students. “Our focus is to help students develop an understanding of the need to be proactive consumers of educational opportunities at George Mason,” she says.

The office also carries its mission outside the walls of the university by giving presentations to local high schools, universities and private organizations “to try to educate as many people as possible about options for funding their college education.”

In recent years, OFSA and its staff have received several state and national honors. In 2000, OSFA won the Model of Quality Award from the U.S. Department of Education’s Quality Assurance Program.

And this year, Erik Melis, associate director, was elected president of the Virginia Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (VASFAA), and Leslie Thomas, assistant director, was elected secretary. Both Melis and Thomas have previously held chair and committee chair positions at the VASFAA.

De Freitas, who began working at George Mason in 1992 as a financial aid counselor and has served as the OSFA director since January 2001, has worked with SallieMae, one of the nation’s largest college loan companies, during her 13 years at Mason. Many Mason students borrow their student loans through SallieMae.

De Freitas was asked earlier this year to be interviewed for a book that SallieMae’s scholarship fund was working on. Because the net proceeds from the sales were going toward one of its scholarship funds, she agreed. The book, “How to Pay for College: A Practical Guide for Families,” was published earlier this year.

According to de Freitas, OSFA remains committed to furthering its mission while continuing to search out new ways to communicate information to students and their families.

“We want to increase our interactions with students and their families to make sure we continue to assist as many as possible through the information and resources that we have available to us,” she says.

For more information on the Office of Student Financial Aid, visit its web site.

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