Born in Jalisco, Mexico, Jose Olvera earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics at Cal Poly before accepting a teaching position at Santa Barbara Business College. He became a Scholarship Foundation program advisor in November 2014.
What is the most gratifying part of your job?
Helping families access financial aid for college is always gratifying, as is knowing that our work is making a real difference in the community. Many people come to us with a limited understanding of financial aid resources, and some are needlessly discouraged from pursuing prestigious colleges or universities. I never tire of telling students and their families what is possible.
Do you ever hear back from the people you have helped as an SFSB program advisor?
I have had many students approach me in public and thank me for my help on their financial aid applications. Most are college graduates or will soon be. I always enjoy hearing their success stories and learning how we have helped them accomplish their education goals.
How did you come to work in student outreach services? Is it something you have always wanted to do?
My first job in college was as an outreach advisor with the Upward Bound program, working with students in grades 9 through 12. I built a great rapport with the students and school staff, which made my job especially enjoyable. I came to realize that if I wanted to make a difference in getting students through college, this is where I needed to be. My career goal is to teach math, but I plan to continue working in student services until I earn my teaching credential.
What would you say to students or parents who may be reluctant to pursue financial aid counseling?
Explore your options. I always advise students and parents not to prequalify themselves. Federal loans are the best type of student loans, and some scholarships – like ours – may not be need-based. It is always better to have financial aid and not need it, than to need it and not have it.
What is your most memorable experience as an SFSB program advisor?
The first time I saw hundreds of our recipients walk on stage and confidently announce their scholarship and school choice at a Santa Barbara awards ceremony. It was a proud moment, as I could see how all the hard work and time spent helping students had paid off.
What is the most common misconception about financial aid?
I would say there are two: Students often assume they are ineligible by virtue of their grades, or family income in excess of qualifying limits. While need does figure prominently in the awarding of federal and state grants, there are many types of financial aid open to students with higher family income. Similarly, some scholarships do not require a 4.0 GPA, but may prioritize community service or studying for a particular profession, for example. I always make sure to explain all the benefits of applying for financial aid in its many forms.