Melissa Haberman joined UW Flexible Option as director of financial aid in July. She’s a proud alumna of two University of Wisconsin System campuses, having earned her graduate degree online through UW-La Crosse and her bachelor’s degree from UW-Milwaukee. Melissa served as president of the Wisconsin Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (WASFAA) from 2013 to 2014.
Welcome to UW Flexible Option. As the new director of financial aid for the program, how will your work benefit our students?
The financial aid process can be very complex. In my experience, each student’s financial aid situation is different. I’ve worked at three University of Wisconsin schools–UW-Milwaukee, UW Colleges, and UW-Madison–as well as Madison Area Technical College and Bryant and Stratton College. So I’m familiar with most types of higher education institutions. I’ve also worked with students of all ages, from recent high school grads to adults who are often balancing their education with work, family, and other responsibilities. I know the variety of financial aid challenges students might encounter and can work quickly to resolve them.
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What compels you to work in this field?
I am a first-generation college graduate and without financial aid, I would not be where I am today. Like many of my colleagues in the industry, my experience began with sorting through the forms myself as a high school senior. Then, I got my start as an undergraduate work-study student in the Financial Aid Office at UW-Milwaukee. My experience as a Peer Advisor helped me to see the large impact that financial aid makes every day. After graduation, I really thought hard about what I wanted to do. It was clear to me that I wanted to continue helping people achieve their educational goals in some way. It is an honor to be part of that through my work in the financial aid field.
What excites you most about your work with UW Flexible Option?
I’m excited about the opportunity to increase access to education and the chance to be on the forefront of developing new ways to bring higher education to students. Competency-based education is a quickly expanding format with more degree options becoming available all the time. My top priority over the next year is to continue to expand student access to financial resources as we continue to increase efficiency in our processes and provide individualized support for students seeking financial aid. I know that financial issues can be a barrier for students trying to meet their educational goals. I find it very rewarding to help students remove those barriers.
What advice do you have for UW Flexible Option students seeking financial aid?
My advice is to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as soon as you submit your admissions application. Processing takes at least a month, and we want to ensure you have funds available when you are ready to start.
My second piece of advice is don’t be afraid to ask for help. The financial aid process can be very complex. The good news is financial aid has become simpler over the years, and my role is to help simplify things even more.
The UW Flexible Option financial aid structure is very unique. Our financial aid coordinators understand that the terminology can be new and confusing, with “credit hour equivalency” and “subscription period,” and we are happy to help! A great place to start is the video on our Financial Aid Overview website. If you decide to enroll in UW Flexible Option, you’ll be paired with an Academic Success Coach. Your coach will support you throughout your journey. And of course, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me. I want to hear from you.
Email your financial aid questions to email@example.com or call 1-877-895-3276.