Randolph Found Her ‘Happy’ in Financial Aid
Shelley Randolph knows finances can be scary. As the new director of the Office of Financial Aid at Piedmont University, she wants students to feel so comfortable that they can come by, call, email, or text the office without fear.
“There is a lot of jargon that people don’t understand,” Randolph said. “There are so many friendly faces here, but people may not know it. I hope to open that up and get students to come in.”
She also wants to get out of the office to reach students. She wants them to see the financial aid staff in residence halls, The Commons, and other gathering places around campus.
“We are stewards of financial aid. We follow federal and state aid regulations, but we’re also here to help,” Randolph said. “We listen to stories. We counsel students and parents. We talk them through all the processes. We will go over financial literacy in all forms.”
Randolph comes to Piedmont from Brenau University, where she spent nearly all of her 16 years there in financial aid. She also taught a first-year experience course at Brenau. That gave her one more way to connect with students.
“Getting to know them and working on that course with them was the most fun I had,” she said. “I would talk about financial aid every single week, and they didn’t even know it because we would talk about all sorts of things.”
Students learned about the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and that they could fill it out starting Oct. 1. They could use that knowledge to win prizes during trivia games later in the semester. She made it fun.
“After that point, I had 30 students who felt super comfortable going to financial aid. And then I would have 30 more in the next class and 30 more. And I thought, ‘Why can’t we have more people doing this?’” she said. “I got my love for financial literacy programs with those students in the first-year experience.”
Randolph enjoys solving problems and tackling difficult or complex situations. Maybe a student made a mistake on the FAFSA. Perhaps they don’t know they are eligible for additional aid should certain loans fall through. Finding solutions for students who otherwise might lose hope keeps her going.
“Then they’ll cry and be happy, or a parent will hug me. Those are the moments when I think, ‘Yes, I helped someone today,’” she said. “It’s those little things that help students finish their degrees.”
Randolph’s educational background includes earning a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Columbus State University, a master’s degree in organizational leadership and a human resources management certificate from Brenau University, and she is now pursuing a Doctor of Education degree in Educational Leadership and Management from St. Thomas University.
Students preparing for commencement on May 6 may not know that the office also offers exit counseling, so they will be ready for what happens after graduation. This service includes information about payment options, consolidating loans, and what to look for to ensure that repayment notices they receive after graduation are legitimate.
A sign in Randolph’s Daniel Hall office reads, “Find Your Happy.” She found her happy working with students in financial aid.
“There is so much more to it than the loans, the Pell Grant, and institutional scholarships. I think sometimes people forget that,” she said. “People think we’re grumpy old trolls, but we’re not.”