The University of Arkansas – Fort Smith announced today that long-time financial aid professional Karen Jeffers will oversee the Department of Financial Aid and Veterans Benefits at UAFS. Jeffers will lead a staff of nine financial aid professionals serving nearly 6,500 students. Each year the UAFS Department of Financial Aid administers more than $53 million in financial aid and scholarships to UAFS students while ensuring compliance with federal, state and institutional guidelines.
Jeffers has spent two decades serving students in financial aid offices across the region, most recently as the director of financial aid and scholarships at Tulsa Community College in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where she oversaw strategic direction and daily operations of the department, which provided more than $60 million to TCC students annually. Earlier in her career, Jeffers served as the assistant director of financial aid at UAFS, making her return as director a homecoming of sorts.
“My first professional job was at Westark College back in 2000,” shared Jeffers. “I was a recent college graduate, had just moved to Arkansas, and was a newlywed and new mom. I found a passion and excitement for education that I never knew existed, and that has shaped my professional career.”
“I am so excited to be back at the University of Arkansas - Fort Smith, serving the Lion family as we embark on a new normal,” she said, energized and optimistic. “As I look around campus today, there has been tremendous growth with the addition of more student housing, an expanded Boreham Library and several other beautiful buildings that I can’t wait to explore.”
In a department where flexibility and adaptability are essential, Jeffers has shown dedication to providing students with positive experiences throughout her career while striving to identify processes that can be improved to that same end.
“I strive always to serve students, guiding them through complicated processes, reducing financial hurdles and helping them achieve success,” Jeffers said. “Without financial aid many students would not be able to attend college. My goal is to engage with students, staff and faculty to develop creative ways to improve the student experience with the financial aid office, whether in person, online through self-service or in a digital setting.”
Dr. Lee Krehbiel, vice chancellor for student affairs at UAFS expressed excitement about Jeffers’ potential contributions in partnering with other departments on campus to make the complex financial aid process smoother for students and working with a team to better utilize all of the university’s aid and scholarships to foster student success.
Jeffers is a past president and active member of the Oklahoma Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators and a past board member of the Southwest Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators, where she served as the Oklahoma state president. In addition to her work at TCC, Jeffers served as director of financial aid at Redlands Community College in El Reno, Oklahoma, from 2007-2011 and assistant director of financial aid at UAFS from 2000-2007.
Jeffers earned her Bachelor of Science in agriculture business management at California State Polytechnic University – Pomona in 1997 and her Associate of Science in agriculture business management from Bakersfield College in 1994.