Kunes to bring experience to head of Office of Student Aid

Sean Yoder
February 20, 2018

Melissa Kunes knows as well as anybody that the student aid landscape is always changing. She also knows what’s at stake: the ability of students to finance their education.

Kunes, with 33 years of experience at Penn State, will become the new assistant vice president for Undergraduate Education and executive director of the Office of Student Aid, effective March 1.

The Office of Student Aid is responsible for administering $1.2 billion in financial aid money from federal, state, University and private sources, allowing students to mitigate the cost of higher education. The office processes more than 90,000 applications for financial aid each year, assisting more than 75,000 students. It is a part of Enrollment Management within Undergraduate Education, along with the Office of Registrar and Office of Admissions.

“I am passionate about the belief that we as a society have an obligation to educate our citizenry and because of that, I believe that student financial aid has a very important purpose in helping students to fund their education,” Kunes said.

Kunes had been the senior director for Student Aid since 2009. From 2014-17 she worked as a member of the LionPATH implementation team. Of her 33 years at Penn State, 23 have been in student aid. In her role of senior director, she was responsible for day-to-day operations of the Office of Student Aid. That puts her in a position to help develop strategic initiatives, assist in budget planning, and oversee personnel and office leadership in the new role.

“Melissa's long experience working in student aid makes her the ideal candidate to take on the role of executive director,” said Rob Pangborn, vice president and dean for Undergraduate Education. “The Office of Student Aid plays a central role in helping students afford the cost of a higher education degree.”

Originally from Lock Haven, she attended Lock Haven University and earned a bachelor’s degree in speech communication/theatre and later a master’s in counselor education from Penn State.

She said the student aid landscape is forever changing, be it from a regulatory perspective or from changes in interpretations of the law.

“We are not strangers to change. We deal quite effectively with it. We know our student's funding is at stake. The staff in the office of student aid are a wonderful group of professionals with whom I have the privilege to work. They're very responsive to change. They're very innovative. They're very student-centered and for me it's an honor to work with them.”

She will be stepping into the shoes of Anna Griswold, who will retire this spring after serving in the post for 27 years. Griswold oversaw transitions through numerous milestone moments, Kunes said, such as the evolution from paper files to electronic files through the use of document imaging. She was also at the helm of the office during the transition from the Federal Family Education Loan Program lending process, which was bank-based, to the government-based Direct Loan Program process.

The Office of Student Aid is part of Penn State Undergraduate Education, the academic administrative unit that provides leadership and coordination for University-wide programs and initiatives in support of undergraduate teaching and learning at Penn State. Learn more about Undergraduate Education at undergrad.psu.edu.

Last Updated February 20, 2018