UMW News Bureau
University of Montana Western Director of Financial Aid Ricki Jones is the Montana Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (MASFAA) Financial Aid Professional of the Year.
The award recognizes professionals who have contributed to the financial aid profession in Montana as well as the entire Rocky Mountain Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (RMASFAA) region, which includes Colorado, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming.
Jones, a Libby, Mont. native, graduated from the University of Montana Western with a bachelor’s degree in art and English education in 1992. Jones returned to her alma mater in Dillon in 1997 as a financial aid specialist. She went on to earn a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Montana in 2005 and became the director of financial aid for Montana Western the same year.
Jones was nominated for her selfless service and her unwavering commitment to students.
“Ricki goes above and beyond in everything she does,” MASFAA President Valerie Curtin said of Jones during the award ceremony in Great Falls on April 19.
“Ricki goes above and beyond in everything she does,” MASFAA President Valerie Curtin said of Jones during the award ceremony in Great Falls on April 19. “She always stands up for the students and will always question a policy that harms students.”
Jones received eight nominations from her peers within MASFAA, which she said made the award all the more meaningful.
“This award is flattering because it comes from my peers, who I respect so much,” Jones said.
Jones’ extensive experience in the field of financial aid includes four years representing MASFAA on the RAMSFAA board and as vice president. She also served as a RAMSFAA trainer, training committee member and conference committee member. Jones was a president-elect, president, past president and vice president for MASFAA and is currently serving on the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA) Program Committee.
Jones also currently serves on the Montana Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education (OCHE) Affordability Task Force. She has traveled to Washington, D.C. on several occasions to advocate for financial aid and students, meeting with congressmen and senators. She also currently serves on a panel working on veteran educational issues for U.S. Sen. Jon Tester.
At the core of Jones’ work is the belief that the opportunity to pursue a college degree must be available to all, particularly at a university like Montana Western in which up to 90 percent of students rely on financial aid for their education.
“Our economic and cultural future — our ability to thrive and survive — is embedded within our ability to educate and retain our students,” Jones explained. “Anytime you have the opportunity to advocate for students or peers in your profession it’s a gift. I don’t think the right to an education should be a question of the haves and have-nots. That’s a fundamental belief for me, that everyone should have an opportunity to pursue higher education.”
Jones also emphasized that the entire UMW Financial Aid Office deserved credit for her award.
“I couldn’t do this without my team,” she added. “They all have amazing work ethics and deeply care about our students.”