Executive Director of Financial Aid at Saint Mary’s College of California

Saint Mary’s College of California seeks a dynamic and collaborative executive director of financial aid (EDFA). Reporting to the vice president for enrollment management, the new executive director will develop, implement, and advance comprehensive financial aid services. The EDFA oversees and leads the implementation of financial aid leveraging strategies, financial aid policies, and awarding practices to assist undergraduate and graduate students enroll and persist to graduation. The executive director will join an enrollment management leadership team consisting of key partners in the admissions, registrar, and enrollment management offices. Saint Mary’s College of California’s Financial Aid Office staff is optimistic, engaged, and eager to attract and support a seasoned leader who will provide exemplary customer service; manage, mentor, and train staff for optimal professional performance; and collaborate fully within a caring and supportive community.

Designated as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, Saint Mary’s College of California boasts a highly diverse student population. Additionally, the College enjoys a large community of first-generation students. The executive director of financial aid must exhibit a deep appreciation and commitment to diversity, first-generation college students, and access programs integral to student persistence and retention.

The Position
The executive director of financial aid is responsible for the integrity of all financial aid programs and will create and update policies on compliance, ensuring accuracy and complete regulatory compliance. All federal and state reporting and reconciliation falls under the purview of the EDFA and financial aid staff.

Additionally, the executive director will establish and execute policies that support the objectives, goals, and priorities of the enrollment management division and of the institution.  The EDFA will ensure staff knowledge and professional training fostering the continuity and clarity of office duties as well as consistency, empathy, support, and follow through for best practices in customer care.

The new executive director will facilitate effective financial aid packaging, including timely notification and delivery of financial aid funds from all sources.  Serving in an instrumental role in working with the vice president for enrollment management and Human Capital (HCRC) on enrollment projections and financial aid optimization efforts, the EDFA will help Saint Mary’s reach institutional targets for enrollment, including diversity, discount rate, and net tuition revenue. The EDFA is responsible for all awarding processes and disbursement of approximately $70 million in financial aid. The EDFA will implement best practices and practical delivery of funded and unfunded institutional gift assistance for students and also supports the efforts of the advancement office on endowed scholarship awarding and distribution, and appropriate donor stewardship.

The new executive director will maintain a level of service excellence regarding financial aid policies and best practices for financial aid processes, communications, and delivery.  To instill trust and confidence in the Financial Aid Office, the executive director must be a prominent leader and an effective communicator.  Recognizing the value, professionalism, and strong work ethics of the current staff of six, the EDFA will guide, mentor, teach, and work alongside staff to instill the value of team effort in a best practices environment.

With a proven track record in systems optimizations, the EDFA will have primary responsibility in Ellucian Colleague. The EDFA should be nimble with data and comfortable with the technology to support best practices in all aspects of financial aid distribution, fiscal management, and enrollment activities. The EDFA will produce the rules and write algorithms that allow for annual updates to the new student and continuing student auto-packaging module in Colleague, as well as ensure data integrity and regulatory compliance throughout the Colleague system in conjunction with key administrative partners.

The EDFA will collaborate and develop strong working relationships with the Registrar’s Office, Admissions, Student Accounts, the Student Success Office, Student Life departments, Athletics, and other key partners across the College. On a regular basis, the EDFA will meet with partners to resolve issues and proactively work towards greater inter-departmental efficiencies to ensure full compliance and greater customer care.

Additional responsibilities of the executive director of financial aid include the following:

  • Provide leadership to the College community in relating the impact of federal, state, and institutional financial aid budgeting decisions toward achieving College enrollment objectives;
  • Encourage innovation and inclusive excellence within the Financial Aid Office to provide student-centered services for graduate and undergraduate students;
  • Ensure that the Financial Aid Office’s practices are guided by, and comply with, ethical standards;
  • Possess knowledge of the regional and national dialogue regarding financial aid best practices;
  • Develop, analyze, and interpret statistical financial data for enrollment and financial reporting, including, but not limited to: Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS); Common Data Set; California SB70 enrollment; Federal Fiscal Operations Report and Application to Participate (FISAP); Federal A-133 audit for Campus-Based Aid; federal and state (i.e., Cal Grant) Program Participation Agreement; state Institutional Participation Agreement;
  • Develop workshops and programming focused on financial literacy and college affordability (for graduate and undergraduate students);
  • Develop and implement electronic communication flows for financial- aid awarding to new and continuing graduate and undergraduate students; and
  • Serve on key institutional committees including the Budget Committee and Enrollment Group.

Knowledge, Skills and Attributes of the Successful Candidate
The ideal candidate will be a collaborative and proactive problem solver who works well under pressure; always remains current on national financial aid policies, regulations, and trends; demonstrates skill in the appropriate use of technology to support efficient systems and a positive student experience; and has the capacity to lead and manage a complex financial aid effort. The successful candidate will thrive in this highly relational institution as someone who appreciates and respects the strength of a smaller community of learners and colleagues. A bachelor’s degree is required with an advanced degree strongly preferred. Eight years of progressive leadership and management experience in financial aid administration is required.

In addition, the following job-related qualifications represent the knowledge, skills, and attributes an individual needs to possess:

  • Ability to meet deadlines and maintain a high level of accuracy and professionalism;
  • Demonstrated evidence of customer service orientation with the ability to serve all individuals well in a highly diverse student population;
  • Ability to work individually and collaboratively in a dynamic organization;
  • Experience in training, managing, mentoring, and professionally developing a financial aid team capable of extraordinary customer service and accuracy in compliance – with positive strength and energy;
  • Experience working with Ellucian Colleague and financial aid modules is preferred; proficiency in financial aid related technology is required;
  • Ability to use tact, diplomacy and judgment in dealing with all customers and has a comfort level and positive demeanor working under pressure; and
  • Demonstrating an executive presence, self-reliance, proactive and enthusiastic approach, with an ability to make a positive impression on others.


The Institution

Saint Mary’s College of California will be the leading Catholic comprehensive university in the western United States – known for its academic excellence, foundation in the liberal arts, ethical leadership for a just society and the common good, integrative and collaborative learning, and distinctive transformative education for students.

-Saint Mary’s College Vision Statement

Saint Mary’s College of California
In the tradition of the De La Salle Christian Brothers, Saint Mary’s College of California is a Catholic, liberal arts, residential university serving approximately 3,000 students, promoting rigorous critical thinking, shared inquiry, and social justice. Located on a beautiful 420-acre campus in the Moraga Hills east of San Francisco, Saint Mary’s is known for its liberal arts undergraduate education, including its Collegiate Seminar and robust January Term programs; high quality graduate and professional programs, including business, education, leadership and fine arts; and award-winning, internationally recognized faculty and students. Saint Mary’s students rate their college experience as academically challenging and engaging, with a supportive learning community that provides a transformative education to a vibrant and diverse student body.  For this reason, Saint Mary’s is celebrated as one of the select colleges recognized as Colleges That Change Lives.

Consistent with the College’s Catholic mission, approximately a third of Saint Mary’s undergraduate students are the first in their family to attend college and a quarter are Pell grant eligible. 99 percent of undergraduate students receive some form of financial aid.  Students receive a combination of institutional aid in the form of need-based grants and academic scholarships.  The FAFSA is the only required financial aid application and students are awarded merit-based scholarships at the time of acceptance. Saint Mary’s is among the nation’s top 5% of universities for the financial payoff of its students’ college investment, and its graduates reach a higher social and economic position, rising from the lowest 20% to the top 20% throughout their careers.

Student life at Saint Mary’s provides co-curricular opportunities for engagement, learning, leadership, service, and fun both on and off campus.  Saint Mary’s has a strong tradition of service that is built upon the solid rock of Catholic social justice and the pioneering work of John Baptist de La Salle, founder of the Christian Brothers, who insisted on education for all, regardless of their ability to pay. From those early days of educating the sons of California’s working class to engage in the California labor movement, to guiding students to serve the needy in the US and abroad, while integrating their experiences in their academics. Saint Mary’s is a member of the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll with Distinction, with students providing nearly 40,000 hours of service to communities in the U.S. and abroad.  Niche has identified Saint Mary’s in the top 10% of Hispanic-Serving Institutions.

Mission and Values
The College’s mission statement celebrates its three traditions, the classical tradition of liberal arts education, the intellectual and spiritual legacy of the Catholic Church, and the vision of education enunciated by Saint John Baptist de La Salle and developed by the Brothers of the Christian Schools and their educational institutions for more than 300 years. The identity of Saint Mary’s College of California is built on three core commitments  and The Saint Mary’s College experience is guided by five Lasallian Core Principles:

  • Concern For the Poor and Social Justice
  • Faith in the Presence of God
  • Quality Education
  • Respect for all Persons
  • Inclusive Community


  • Promoting global perspectives and inclusive excellence
  • Preparing students for meaningful personal and professional lives
  • Integrating the intellectual, spiritual, and social lives of our community
  • Creating a more just and sustainable world
  • Addressing the conditions and effects of poverty

The Academic Program
Saint Mary’s undergraduate students study in 45 bachelor’s degree programs across four schools; Economics and Business Administration, Liberal Arts, Science, and the Kalmanovitz School of Education.  Students enrolled in the college’s continuing education program complete degrees in leadership and organizational studies and leadership education for arts professionals.  Graduate students may pursue master’s and doctoral degrees in leadership, education and teaching, counseling, dance, creative writing, kinesiology, business administration, accounting, finance, management and business analytics.

The College’s undergraduate programs have two four-month terms in the fall and spring and offers an appealing January term. month-long term allows undergraduate students to explore a single topic in great depth at an accelerated pace.  The Jan Term offers a unique blend of opportunities on campus and around the world. Graduate programs operate on four quarters.

Saint Mary’s distinctive Community Engagement courses build relationships in the Bay Area and support communities on their own terms. Whether through individual courses, or programs and leadership training offered through the Catholic Institute for Lasallian Social Action, Saint Mary’s makes a point to collaborate with and learn from their neighbors.

Saint Mary’s College of California is an ethnically diverse student community with over fifty percent of the undergraduate student population identified as members of historically marginalized groups.  The College is proud to be recognized as a Hispanic Serving Institution and offers numerous programs to better serve students from a variety of backgrounds.

Saint Mary’s Statement on Inclusive Excellence
Inclusive excellence describes the quality of academic achievement that can only be realized in diverse communities where all students have equitable opportunities to succeed.  We believe that we can reach greater heights of excellence by learning from diverse people in our community and creating a culture in which we are all valued, respected, and supported. An education is only complete when it ventures beyond the walls of the classroom.  The Saint Mary’s College Core Curriculum asks all students to engage with the world in substantive and meaningful ways. The College Committee on Inclusive Excellence (CCIE) reviews, recommends, and facilitates the implementation of policies, programs, and practices that advance inclusive excellence at Saint Mary’s College. Saint Mary’s has completed an institution-wide campus climate survey in which the report and more information can be found on the CCIE website.


The Student Experience
The focus of Saint Mary’s approach to student life is to offer integrated learning experiences that empower students to become engaged, global, and ethical persons.  Through co-curricular programming, Saint Mary’s strives to offer a personal approach that fosters the self-confidence of its students, while teaching them to provide reasonable boundaries that encourage respect for the individual and individual difference while motivating critical thinking, intellectual curiosity, and unparalleled creativity.

Saint Mary’s 420-acre campus has twenty-one residential halls.  Sixty percent of the student population lives on campus including 97% of the first-year students, reflecting the college’s housing requirement for first-year students.  The campus itself is stunning, distinguished by the white walls and red tile roofs of its Spanish Renaissance-California Mission-style architecture, and surrounded by grass-covered hills that are sometimes crowned with fog blown in from the Pacific.

Saint Mary’s sixteen sports teams compete in the NCAA Division I West Coast Conference.  Student-athletes also participate in fifteen club teams and eight intramural leagues.  The campus community offers spirited, enthusiastic support for their teams led by the Gael Force, the student cheering squad, the Spirit Squad and Sports Band.  The Joseph L. Alloto Recreation Center also offers fitness sessions and classes.

To learn more about the college, see https://www.stmarys-ca.edu/.

Moraga, CA
Saint Mary’s College was once the territory and home of the Saklan tribe of the Bay Miwok people. Descendants of the Bay Miwok people are still here, some of whom have now organized with the Chochenyo and Ohlone tribes. Moraga is a suburban town located in Contra Costa County, California, in the San Francisco Bay Area. It is named in honor of Joaquin Moraga, whose grandfather was José Joaquin Moraga, second in command to Juan Bautista de Anza. As of 2020, Moraga had a total population of 16,870 people.

Moraga is in a valley, surrounded by rolling hills. Residents enjoy walking or biking many trails in the Lamorinda area. Large sections of the Lafayette-Moraga Regional Trail, a 7.65-mile pedestrian, bicycle, and equestrian path which runs between the cities of Lafayette and Moraga, passes through the town.

The campus is just 23 miles east of San Francisco, across the bay from one of the most dynamic and exciting cities in the world.  Just on the other side of the Caldecott Tunnel are Oakland and Berkeley, with fantastic parks, restaurants, shops and cultural experiences.  Up the road in the quieter Walnut Creek and Concord, there are numerous opportunities for shopping and eating; while California’s exquisite wine country is under an hour away.

Compensation and benefits
The range of compensation for the position is expected to be between $120,000 and $140,000.  To learn about St. Mary’s College of California’s outstanding benefits, see the website: https://www.stmarys-ca.edu/human-resources/benefits.

To Apply
NES is assisting Saint Mary’s College with this search for an Executive Director of Financial Aid If you wish to have a confidential conversation about this opportunity or submit nominations, please contact: Laura Robinson, laura.robinson@nessearches.com, Robin Reynders , robin.reynders@nessearches.com or Mary Napier, mary.napier@nessearches.com To apply, please send the following items: 1) a resume, 2) a detailed letter of interest, and 3) contact information for three professional references by email to:  stmarys-ca@nessearches.com  For assurance of full consideration, please submit application materials no later than October 24. Applications will be reviewed until the position is filled. All applications and nominations will be considered confidential, and notice will be given before references are contacted. The Executive Director of Financial Aid’s anticipated start date is early 2024.


Saint Mary’s is an equal employment opportunity employer. We support inclusive excellence and are committed to creating a safe and welcoming community for all. College policy prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, age, gender, sexual orientation, marital status, medical condition, physical or mental disability, gender stereotyping, and gender identity, taking a protected leave (e.g. family medical or pregnancy leave), or on any other basis protected by applicable laws.