USA Funds Staff Profile: A Career of 'Living and Breathing Financial Aid'

Like many financial aid professionals, Barbara Thompson spent decades assisting students in campus aid offices — but she didn’t plan for it to be that way.

“I fell into it,” Thompson says, smiling at how she came to spend 40 years and counting in college financial aid, including three decades as a school financial aid administrator and director. “I started in financial aid as a work-study job. As a student-employee, I enjoyed the work, I enjoyed the people, and I enjoyed helping students.

“Since then, I’ve been living and breathing financial aid.”

For the past 10 years, Thompson has been  USA Funds® University manager. Based in Indianapolis, she draws on her longtime experience in financial aid offices to help guide USA Funds University’s online and in-person financial aid training.

“When looking at information and materials USA Funds University provides, I view it through a financial aid director’s lens,” says Thompson. “I think it helps if you’ve walked in the shoes of your audience.”

Thompson was financial aid director at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis for five years, capping a career there that also included 15 years as associate director. She also was assistant director of financial aid at IUPUI. She previously worked in financial aid at Indiana University Bloomington, where she earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees and took that work-study position that would lead to her long financial aid career.

“Financial aid makes a difference, and USA Funds makes a difference,” Thompson says. “And that’s always been important to me. USA Funds’ work helps students get in and stay in school and repay their loans, and helps financial aid administrators understand compliance issues and best practices.”

Thompson oversees USA Funds University staff efforts to schedule training, prepare training presentations and materials, update online courses, and answer questions about federal student aid policy. Her goal, she says, is to ensure that the team is providing services that financial aid professionals find helpful.

And if the results of recent surveys are any indication, Thompson and her team are succeeding in their efforts, with 97 percent of respondents indicating they were satisfied with their experience with USA Funds University.

“Ultimately,” Thompson says, “we want to ensure that we’re promoting a student-centered focus, working to ensure that schools can provide students with the best service to help them succeed.”

Thompson has put her undergraduate degree in sociology and master’s degree in counseling to work in the community, having volunteered to assist at a drug crisis center and a women’s shelter.