I have yet to meet Chris in person, but his passion for his work is apparent!
His signature line says it all:
Christopher S. Penn
Connie: Your work is obviously a passion. How did you get started in college
financing topics & how long have you been involved?
Chris: I’ve been in education finance now for more than 4 years, coming to it from working in credit union data centers. The real impetus, though, to be passionate about the work itself started when I started the Financial Aid Podcast in 2005. Nothing inspires passion like talking
to real people with real problems to solve.
Connie: As a parent paying for college I have to admit it’s like buying a new car each year. Are you reaching out to young parents to encourage them to start planning?
Chris: Absolutely, but also encouraging students themselves to take charge of their college finance experience. There are tons of scholarships out there, many with only a few competitors, so with some planning ahead of time and some work, paying for college using mostly free money is possible.
Connie: In regard to the FAFSA (Federal Application For Student Aid), We chose to not fill it out this because of the results from last year (ie: nothing). What is your reaction to that?
Chris: Generally speaking, it’s better to fill it out than not, simply because it doesn’t cost you anything to complete one, and you *might* qualify for something. Given even a small chance of being eligible for something isn’t a bad thing, and at the least, the student would qualify for Stafford loans, which are relatively low interest. (more details and disclosures at www.StaffordLoan.com)
Connie: How do you integrate social media tools into your work? Can you imagine your work without them? How would that affect your reach?
Chris: Social media is indispensable for my work, but not necessarily just because of reach. We use every practical tool we can at the Student Loan Network, from Facebook to good old fashioned email to even limited direct postal mail. It all depends on the audience. Where social media shines is that it forces me to be very disciplined in how I do my research and how I present material to the world. When you’re a senior executive at the average company, you don’t talk to customers all that often, and as a result, when you’re in meetings, you’re very often just guessing. “Consumers will love our new flexible scalable blah blah blah…” – you’ve heard it. Social media lets me stay in touch with the people we’re supposed to be serving, and have a very strong idea of what’s really on people’s minds as opposed to guessing. It also forces me to be super sure of my research because I can’t hide behind the corporate wall. If I publish something on my blog or podcast, I’m answerable to my audience for it,
so I have to give it my best shot.
Connie: Switching topics… You’re one of the founders of PodCamp Boston – what was the motivation for starting it? How has it evolved?
Chris: Truthfully, Chris Brogan and I didn’t want to travel to the West Coast for all the podcasting events! When we started PodCamp, PME, Podcast Academy, and Podcast Hotel were all West Coast events, which was frustrating, not to mention expensive. So we created PodCamp based on our experiences at BarCamp Boston. How has it evolved? It’s turned into a movement, and its scope has broadened to include new media in all its forms, not just podcasting. PodCamp’s mission now is more or less to be the welcome wagon conference for folks interested in new media. That’s our niche – bringing new people into new media, helping connect niches and verticals, pros and amateurs, everyone who wants to be involved in new media but isn’t sure where to start.
Are you the parent of a student or maybe a student attending college? What are your challenges in financing your education?Google+