This story was originally published as a City Colleges news blog titled “Here to Help: A Conversation with OHC’s Executive Director of Student Financial Aid Services” on June 8, 2022.
We asked Vincent Harris, Executive Director of Student Financial Aid Services at Olive-Harvey College, a little about his job and how he helps students access higher education every day.
What is your job as Executive Director of Student Financial Services at Olive-Harvey College?
My role is to oversee the administration of federal and state financial aid programs. Our office deals with a lot of policies and ensures that we are meeting compliance expectations. We work to ensure that students are aware of options to pay for college, helping them to have a great college experience.
How long have you worked at City Colleges?
I have worked at City Colleges of Chicago for almost eleven years. Working at different locations across the district has taught me so much. While each campus may serve a different area in the city, our goal reminds the same. I feel very fortunate to have the opportunities that I’ve had.
I began my journey at Kennedy-King College, where I worked as a financial aid advisor for four years. That is where I gained a solid foundation for my career, and really developed my passion for helping our students succeed. I then worked at the system’s district office as a financial aid analyst and was able to learn a lot of back-end processes. I brought that knowledge to Malcolm X College as the assistant director of financial aid. I have been at Olive-Harvey College since December 2019.
Did you always want to work in higher ed? How did your path take you here?
Like most of my peers, I never saw myself working in higher education. I always wanted to work in banking, and I actually have a lot of banking and customer service experience. One day I was looking at jobs and noticed a financial aid posting. I was not sure exactly what it entailed, but I knew my skillset matched.
Thankfully, I was given the opportunity to showcase my skills and made me realize I was a valuable asset to the Financial Aid Office. Ultimately, the most important part of our job is the student.
What is the best part of your job?
The best part of my job is helping students obtain their goal of receiving a college education. A new venture that we have been tasked with at Olive-Harvey College is operating a financial literacy center on campus.
The Money Management Center is a resource to prospective and new students where we will foster and promote financial literacy; ultimately improving the financial capability of our youth and communities. During the spring semester we had great turn out at our workshops which included topics such as taxes, credit building, and budgeting. Looking forward to the fall semester, we hope to have more on-campus literacy events to help our students learn the financial knowledge required to make sound financial decisions.
What is the best advice you have for students who need help paying tuition? What about students who want to come to college, but don’t think they can afford it?
The best advice I have for any student with concerns on how to pay for college is to speak with the Financial Aid Office. There are so many opportunities available to attend college without paying anything. Through emergency grant funding (HEERF), scholarship opportunities, and financial aid, most students have a method to achieve going to City Colleges of Chicago at a significantly lower price, if at any cost at all.
What makes OHC different?
What makes Olive-Harvey College different is how closely we work with our students. Being a smaller campus, we pride ourselves on getting to know our students – we really focus on ensuring students’ needs are met. The interactions that I see happening with our students leave me no doubt that we are really focused on a student’s success. This conversation may include suggesting limiting course load, offering tutoring, and other wrap around services.
Are there any scholarships that are just for Olive-Harvey College students (and future students!)?
Yes! One of our largest scholarship funds is the Panther Pride Scholarship. This scholarship will help students cover the cost of their tuition and books. Students can apply for this scholarship via www.ccc.edu/panther.
Project Evolve is another scholarship that helps students. Students eligible for this program will not only receive assistance through free tuition and books, you can also receive:
• Childcare and transportation assistance
• Receive employable skills
• Job placement assistance
Project Evolve covers students over ten programs including, CDL A, CDL B, Cannabis Dispensary, and more. To learn more about this program and apply, please visit https://pages.ccc.edu/apply/ohc-projectevolve/
Another great opportunity that we offer exclusively through OH is the Waste Management Scholarship. This scholarship helps diesel technology, CDL A, and CDL B students secure their courses. Students are eligible for up to $5,000 in funding through this scholarship. To learn more about this scholarship visit https://pages.ccc.edu/apply/wm-tdl-funds/.
Students can also apply for CCC foundation scholarships and get matched to scholarships that best fit their profile at www.ccc.edu/scholarships.
I want to go back to college. Where do I start?
Apply today at www.ccc.edu/apply.
Then, you can fill out your FAFSA or the RISE alternative application. You can learn more at www.ccc.edu/financialaid.
If you have any questions about your financial aid status, I encourage you to speak with your financial aid team either via Zoom, email, or in person.
Can students who are interested in learning more stop by/make an appointment/get help with financial aid?
Yes! The Financial Aid Office operates mostly through walk ins. If students are not able to make it to campus, we can meet through Zoom, or make an appointment ahead of time through Navigate in the student portal.