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Administrator writes book on financial aid

Christian Myers | Friday, November 19, 2010


Joe Russo, director of student financial strategies, recently published his fourth book, and has found that a lot of people want to hear from him, he said. 
He has seen interest from college students, families of college students, school administrators, high school guidance counselors, young financial aid officers, education policy makers and even researchers at Oxford.
His fourth book, “The Art and Science of Student Aid Administration in the 21st Century,” is the book he said he hopes will be his legacy in the profession to which he has devoted his life. 
According to Russo, this latest book is  his most scholarly. The book was published by the National Association of Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA), and Russo said he will not make any money from sales of this book, but the proceeds will instead go toward a NASFAA scholarship fund.
“The more experience you have doing something, the more confident you become,” Russo said. “So, I combined my knowledge and confidence with my writing skills … to write this book. The science is the impersonal but necessary budgets, formulas, numbers and structure. 
“The art is the common sense, compassion and knowledge of when to make exceptions that must supplement the science. A successful administrator needs both art and science.”
He said his book examines the history that led to the modern financial aid landscape. Russo said he systematically analyzes the policies and practices that have altered student financial aid programs over the course of his career. 
“I believe you can know more about where we are today, if you know where we came from,” Russo said.
This is Russo’s 46th year working in financial aid administration, and the majority of his career has been with Notre Dame. He began working at Notre Dame in 1978 after working at two other institutions in up-state New York. 
“The single biggest challenge of my career has been getting out good, timely, accurate information,” Russo said.
Each year Russo works to dispel the myths and fallacies that prospective students and their families harbor about financial aid, he said. At the same time, he said he informs them of the many truths and demonstrates why a Notre Dame education is a good investment in a student’s future.
Russo said he is proud that through the efforts of his department, a Notre Dame education remains reasonably affordable for all students. 
According to Russo, the University provided approximately $98 million this year, which is up from $89 million last year. 
He said all of this keeps him and the others in his department busy year-round. However, Russo said the feeling of pride that comes with helping to shape each new freshman class validates the work. 
“I was a student aid recipient, and I think that makes me a better administrator,” Russo said.
According to Russo, the cost of attendance is being placed more and more on the individual rather than the government. Russo explained that tuition is increasing more quickly for state schools, but is increasing for private institutions as well.
Notre Dame is not exempt from this trend, but Russo said compared to similar institutions, Notre Dame has been successful at managing the situation.
He said while other high profile institutions are going through layoffs, budget cuts and construction freezes, Notre Dame’s “belt-tightening” has been less drastic. Russo attributes this to the University’s large endowment, conservative investing, diversified revenue streams, improved efficiency and an athletic program that pays for itself.
“We are conservative with our finances, and we’re blessed with resources,” Russo said.