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Ashley’s Journey into the Financial Aid Industry

At Financial Aid Services (FAS) and Genesis Software, we are known for our industry expertise with decades worth of experience. But how did our experts first begin their journey in the world of Higher Education and Financial Aid?   

This month, we are hearing from Ashley Dowling, a Product Manager and Director of Communications here at FAS. Read on to discover the story of how her journey into the Financial Aid Industry, and specifically at FAS, first began. 

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I believe my beginnings in the financial aid industry were directly due to the Great Recession. During the recession, I was in college studying Communications and Computer Information Systems. I commuted to school and lived at home. My father, a member of the Boston Carpenter’s Union, was laid off during the recession. Since he was the sole breadwinner of the family, finances quickly turned from great, to bad, to scary. Our house faced foreclosure, and my dad used his retirement savings to save the mortgage. 

Shortly after, I graduated college. I left school with a completely new mindset. I went from a dreamy college student looking for the career that would make me happy, to “I need a job, and I need one now.” The sooner I could get a job, the sooner I could help my family pay the bills. 

I applied to jobs like it was my job, and every day I wrote a new cover letter! I had interviews with different businesses three times a week, every week. It took me two months before I landed my first gig at American Student Assistance (ASA), a guarantor of Federal Student Loans. With my first paycheck in hand, I was able to help my family out, and not long after my dad was back at work too. 

I loved my job at ASA, and I quickly moved up the ranks. I started in the call center as a default prevention counselor. I spoke to hundreds of people in dire financial straits and connected with them deeply. It was a rewarding experience to help people with their federal student loans. ASA’s mission became my mission. 

Eventually I moved into technical support for one of ASA’s online platforms, became a contributing blogger both internally and externally, then eventually moved into the Quality Assurance and Training team. I worked closely with management developing different training materials for their teams, and I also worked closely with our engineer and third-party engineers as a systems admin for our Quality Assurance software. 

I loved the people I met at ASA. I learned not just from the job, but from all the people around me that I was privileged to work with every day. But after six years of learning and growing I found myself in the same shoes my father once put on, laid off. 

At this time in my life, I already had a mortgage of my own. That fear I once felt in college now took on an entirely new meaning, and I found myself once again pumping out job applications. Shortly after applying for a role that I had no experience in at FAS, Sandi O’Connell called. Not even a week later, I was sitting at a desk doing something I had no clue about: Verification. It wasn’t long before Kathy Hunt threw me at the engineers for our own software development initiatives. 

I’ve been with FAS for six years now, and one of the coolest parts of the job (besides bringing Elliot to work!) is how Sandi and the crew have let me find my own way here and given me room to take a lead.  

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I’ve also learned how life gives you no guarantees. I don’t know where I’ll be six years from now, whether it’s at FAS or laid off again! But I know that the bonds I’ve made at FAS, just like with my coworkers at ASA, will last far beyond my tenure. And for that, I am very grateful. 

2 Comments

  1. Sandi O’Connell

    April 9, 2024 at 1:08 am

    It’s hard to comment on this, because it is difficult to put into words what a big part of FAS Ashley is and how she has graciously bestowed so many of her gifts on us. When someone gives all of themselves everyday until they are spent,, and they do this not just for the company’s success but for the people, they become part of the company’s essence. Beyond bonds, and leading, they have made the place and entity and team they work with theirs. And once they put their heart and soul into something much bigger than they could have imagined, great things happen and keep happening. Thank you Ashley for making FAS yours. I know loyalty is hard to come by these days, especially when larger corporations discard its workers so swiftly as soon as the bottom line is not met. Those actions create an armor to survive. So thank you for your trust in us and for taking your Financial Aid Journey to the next level with our family. We appreciate you and every success you have made possible with your innovative solutions and careful consistent planning and research. I look forward to many years to come building on these successes together and creating new ones.

    Reply
    • Ashley Dowling

      April 9, 2024 at 1:11 pm

      Thank you Sandi

      Reply

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