Smith College Admission Academics Student Life About Smith news Offices
Five College Calendar
Smith eDigest
Submit an Idea
News Archive
News Publications
Planning an Event
Contact Us
News & Events
Compiled by Eric Weld   Date: 4/7/09 Bookmark and Share

Q & A with David Belanger

Helping Families Make Smith a Reality

Earlier this year, amid the widespread economic downturn, David Belanger was appointed director of Smith’s Student Financial Services (SFS). While the timing presented obvious challenges, Belanger was already familiar with the office, having served as associate director under Deb Leukens. Before coming to Smith, Belanger served as assistant director of financial aid at Plymouth State College and Dartmouth College. He spoke recently with the Gate about his new post and Smith financial aid.

Grécourt Gate: What drew you to this field?

David Belanger: Helping families make higher education possible. I had been working
in the banking industry and enjoyed it very much. I then learned that the financial aid industry had many of the same financial connections as the banking industry. It also added a level of financial counseling that is very much unique to higher education. This seemed like the perfect fit for me. That was 13 years ago and I haven't looked back

Gate: Can you describe the purview of Smith Student Financial Services?

DB: The SFS Office is all about helping students and families make Smith a reality. We provide assistance in the following areas: Financial Aid Nights and information sessions; counseling students and families on the financial aid process; using financial aid formulas to determine the family's ability to pay for higher education; distributing financial aid in an equitable manner to those demonstrating financial need; counseling students and families as it relates to their individual financial aid awards; helping families choose the right path if they will be financing all or a portion of the educational costs; overseeing the complex functions of the student employment program across campus and in the surrounding communities; processing all payments made to student accounts; loan counseling; monthly billing for student accounts; working with outside agencies to process payments and scholarship checks.

Gate: From your perspective as director, what type of approach or philosophy does SFS take to giving financial aid?

DB: It is a strong commitment that Smith College makes to meet the full demonstrated financial need of all its students that have met the financial aid deadlines. As a director, it is important for me to be able to offer families a financial aid award that makes it possible to attend Smith no matter what their financial circumstances.

Gate: What percentage or number of Smith students receive financial aid?

DB: For the academic year 2007-2008, Smith awarded over $41 million dollars in grant assistance to approximately 65 percent of the undergraduate student population. The SFS Office also processed another $4 million in grant aid that came from federal and state agencies.

Gate: Do we expect to be able to maintain that statistic going forward?

DB: It is the commitment of Smith College to meet the full demonstrated need of the families eligible for financial aid. We recently had our financial aid budget approved for next year and it does account for the difficulties Smith families are facing due to the difficult economic times.

Gate: What impact is the current economy having on services provided by your office?
DB: Our office is seeing financial aid review requests at a higher rate than previous years. It is our responsibility to address each review individually and determine whether Smith might be able to assist the family given the current situation they are in. Many Smith families are being affected by this economy and we will work with them as best we can.

Gate: What strategies might you bring to the SFS directorship to deal with realities of the economy?

DB: It is important for the entire SFS staff to understand the difficulties that families are facing right now. Smith's commitment to meet the full need of the family will be an important part of getting through this difficult financial period. Counseling families on the financing options available to them will be especially important as we go into the next several years. Financing a college education should be viewed as a long-term investment and our office will be there to guide families through this process. There is no telling how long this recession will last, but it will be the focus of our office to help one family at a time, one year at a time. 

Gate: What are some ways students can help themselves in the financial aid process?

DB: Complete the financial aid application by the stated deadlines. I can't stress this enough. Having a complete financial aid application allows our office adequate time to review the situation and make a financial aid determination. This, in turn, allows the family to know what their expectation would be and plan accordingly. It is our hope
that students return in September without having to worry about how to pay the bill.

Stay informed in the financial aid process. Know the deadlines and submit all the necessary documentation. Navigating the world of financial aid can sometimes be confusing and that is why we encourage students and families to ask questions.


DirectoryCalendarCampus MapVirtual TourContact UsSite A-Z