Interview with Margaret Malaspina
by Billan Abdi | April 2011
Margaret Malaspina welcomed me into her office with a warm smile and a friendly handshake.
I immediately felt relaxed when we sat down for our interview. While I waited outside of the
financial aid office at Capital Community College I didnít know what to expect from the woman
who heads up arguably the most important department at the school - the department that makes it
possible for me and thousands of other student to come here and get a chance at an interview.
This same office now must deal with devastating budget cuts. I sat down with the woman who
is fighting for the students, Margaret Malaspina.
The first thing I want to know was what attracted her to her current position.
While she was in college Margaret had a work-study job in the financial aid department. She was
questioning whether to go into accounting or psychology, her majors and saw the field of financial
aid as away to blend the two. It was not something she had thought of before. ďYou canít always see
were your path will lead you,Ē Malaspina told me.
When we discussed what the most rewarding part of her job was the answer came quickly. The most
rewarding part is interacting with student either one on one in her office or out at the question
window. The most difficult part of the job took more consideration. Malaspina stated it was dealing
with regulation changes. When regulations get tougher and the hurtles get higher it was more difficult
to help the students. She wants to bridge the gap between what students need and what they get. It is
difficult because of the federal regulations for financial aid put the system into a box, and when
working with students it is hard to put them in a box because there are many situations that may not
be accounted for.
When asked what the most common misconception was about her job Malaspina stated that it was students
thinking that she is mean which couldnít be farther from the truth. Other common myths are
that there is an unlimited supply of money for financial aid, or that the deadlines donít really matter.
These two beliefs are the types of things that make students wait too long and miss the opportunity to
receive financial aid. It is at this point that students think that it is her fault, and that she has
personally said no to them but this is untrue.
The sad reality is that the money does in fact run out and with these impending cuts on all levels of
financial aid it will run out much sooner than usual. There are three different levels that together
make up a studentís financial aid benefits. These categorizes are Federal, State, and Institutional
benefits. Malaspina informed me that the state will almost definitely be reduced, the
federal aid is very likely to be cut back as well and of the three the intuitional level will be ďthe
most safeĒ but it provides the smallest amount of relief to the students.
To any student who is concerned that this will affect their education the advice given to me by Malaspina
is simple a student should apply early, look at outside scholarships, and if possible save their own money.
These steps may help insure your education and ultimately your future.
For those students who donít take their financial aid seriously Malaspina offers this prospective of
what is expected of a student who receives financial aid. ďThe government is looking to you and your
education as an investment. They have expectations. Students must meet the requirements otherwise they
could lose their assistance. They donít realize this until itís gone. Itís like the old saying you can
lead a horse to water but you canít make him drink.Ē
When I asked if she has yet had an opportunity to speak to Governor Dan Molloy she informed me that it
had not happened yet but she did have the opportunity to speak with John Larson and has emailed Richard
Blumenthal. When I asked what she would tell Molloy if they did meet, Malaspina answer quickly and with
confidence, ďDonít touch education on any level.Ē The way she explained the importance of education to
the future of the state of Connecticut was as follows, education is the future even as young as
prekindergarten. The physical things like cars and homes can go away before education, because with
a good education you can rebuild anything.
One of the last things we spoke about was advice to the students of Capital Community College. Her
advice to the students is not to give up. She also advices students to find a mentor, she says it
could be anyone a professor, secretary, or even herself. ďJust anyone you can connect withĒ she said.
Lastly she said that there are no such thing as a silly questions because if you donít ask you will
never move pasted [the question] and it is likely someone else has the same problem. She tells students
who come to her with questions that it is okay not to know everything because how can you know about
something you have never experienced. She also gave practical advice for students who receive financial
aid, if a student is not doing well in a class and they have financial aid it may be better to take the
poor grade if they get a D or C rather than to drop the class.
One thing is for sure students at Capital have a Head of Financial Aid who is looking out for their best
interest. Whether it takes going to meetings, speaking to students, or navigating the ever changing
bureaucracy of the Federal financial aid system, Margaret Malaspina has got our backs.