The Daily Tar Heel

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Thursday January 20th

Financial Aid office is hiring a Spanish-speaking counselor after student requests

The Office of Scholarships and Student Aid is in the process of hiring a fluent Spanish-speaking counselor to handle questions and concerns directly with parents who don’t speak English.

“Financial aid is complicated enough in English,” said Eric Johnson, the office’s assistant director of policy and communications. “We can’t imagine how hard it is for families that don’t speak English.”

The U.S. Census estimates the Hispanic population in North Carolina grew by 132,000 new residents between 2010 and 2016. At UNC, there are more than 2,000 students who identify as Hispanic. For at least the past three years, reports show Hispanic enrollment has also increased.

Financial aid counselors are at the front line when it comes to communicating with parents and students who have doubts or concerns related to financial aid. This communication could be in person, on the phone or via email.

The department has had counselors fluent in other languages in the past. However, this is the first time that Spanish fluency is required to be considered for the job. Johnson said there hasn’t been a Spanish-speaking counselor for the past few years. 

The decision came after the Student Advisory Committee to the Chancellor brought up the lack of linguistic diversity in departments of the University, comparing it to other higher education institutions across the nation.

SACC presented the issue last fall to the administration. When a counselor position opened up in the Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid at the beginning of the spring semester, the committee was told Spanish fluency would be a requirement.

“I was so excited when we found out,” said Alec Di Ruzza, a senior and chairperson of the committee. “If there’s anything that we’ve accomplished through SACC, this is it. It meant a lot to some of the members in the committee.”

SACC, comprised of 13 to 15 undergraduate and graduate students, meets with the Chancellor Carol Folt and other administrators every month for an hour.

“It really does provide an awesome opportunity to bring issues to the chancellor’s attention that she might not be aware of,” Di Ruzza said. “Sometimes it’s just a matter of asking because they’re very simple things.”

Senior Gerardo Alvarado is pleased the University is taking this step. His parents are immigrants from Mexico and don’t speak English.

“When I was a freshman, I was looking for a lot of resources and a lot of information to understand better how financial aid worked, but I wasn’t sure on how to get the information to my parents,” he said. “So I’m excited for the incoming class who is going to have this resource.” 

According to the job posting, the position opened on Jan. 23, and applications are now closed. Johnson said they’re reviewing the applications and conducting interviews.

The bilingual counselor will also be in charge of the content of flyers and other financial aid material. In addition, they will lead presentations in schools with a high concentration of Hispanics.

Because of state regulation, the pay salary for the position oscillates between $37,000 and $42,000 — the same pay range of counselors who exclusively speak English.

“It may be possible that we offer at the higher end of the standard range,” Johnson said. “But that’s the way state hiring works. We don’t get much control over pay ranges.”

He noted The Office of Scholarship and Financial Aid is aware of the need for linguistic diversity.

“We certainly have a lot of immigrant parents,” he said. “Unfortunately, it’s very hard to hire for certain positions. It’d be extremely difficult to hire someone who is fluent in Arabic with two years of financial aid experience, for example.”

@vizcainomariae

university@dailytarheel.com

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