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Experienced Financial Aid Professional Returns to Her Baptist ‘Roots’ at Mississippi College

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When it comes to financial aid at a Christian university, Tawesia Colyer could easily be called an expert.

The Byram resident spent almost two decades honing her craft at Belhaven University, starting as a records manager and working her way up to the highest position in the office.

Armed with remarkable experience and a fresh perspective, Colyer is returning to her Baptist “roots” as the new financial aid director at Mississippi College.

Her family connections to MC run deep. Her uncle, Tom Honea ‘63, was a track and cross country co-captain for the Choctaws and a 1991 MC Athletics Hall of Fame inductee. One of her cousins matriculated at MC, as did many of her high school classmates. And she enjoyed a collegial working relationship with Amanda Beck, MC’s former financial aid director, when both were at Belhaven.

“I’ve known about Mississippi College my whole life,” said Colyer, who attends First Baptist Church in Raymond. “MC’s always been in my realm. The opportunity to jump into a new challenge and get a fresh start is rare – when you’re a director of financial aid, you don’t get a lot of options without having to move.

“Being able to find a new niche and meet a new set of challenges were among the biggest draws of my new position.”

Although she’s only been at her new post for a few weeks, Colyer has drawn rave reviews from MC’s leaders.

“We are thrilled to have someone with Tawesia’s experience and skillset as the new director of financial aid,” said Laura Jackson, MC chief operating officer and chief financial officer. “An added bonus is her uplifting personality. She will be a great asset to this University as she and her team guide our students through the financial aid process.”

Deanna Russell, a loan officer in MC’s Financial Aid Office, said Colyer’s experience has already paid dividends.

“Mrs. Colyer has contributed to our Financial Aid Department in the short time she has been here by hitting the ground running and helping in many ways,” Russell said. “She is already discussing having interactive activities on campus with students to help them with financial aid questions, deadlines, and other topics.

“We feel very fortunate she is leading our department.”

Annita Bennett, assistant director of financial aid, said Colyer has fit in perfectly with her new staff members.

“Our staff is very excited to have Ms. Colyer,” Bennett said. “She is extremely knowledgeable, friendly, willing to help others, and outgoing.”

The energy and passion she brings to her new position is easily matched by her new colleagues, Colyer said.

“The welcome I have received from everyone on campus has been almost overwhelming,” she said. “I’m walking into a great environment here, and seeing what we can accomplish together is exciting.”

MC’s new financial aid director doesn’t plan to reinvent the wheel. She knows she has inherited a remarkable department filled with financial aid professionals committed to the Christian University’s mission. But she plans to introduce some best practices learned during a career dedicated to helping students achieve their academic goals.

A graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi, Colyer joined Belhaven University in 2005 and served as a financial planning counselor, senior financial aid counselor, associate director of financial aid, and interim director of financial aid. She has served as director of financial aid since 2019. An active member of the Mississippi Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators, she has chaired the MASFAA’s Conference Committee and served as the statewide organization’s vice president.

She is joining Mississippi College during a watershed moment for financial aid at the Christian University. Thanks to the Leland Speed Scholarship, a full-tuition scholarship for admitted high school or transfer students who are residents of Mississippi, MC is welcoming one of the largest incoming classes in its rich history.

“That is an amazing gift and such a blessing for new students,” Colyer said. “There are some aspects of the scholarship I am still learning about, and I anticipate we’ll have more traffic through our office and more questions from students and their families. But it’s a wonderful opportunity for Mississippi students, and I anticipate there will be a lot of excitement when the fall semester starts.”

Taking responsibility for how the university receives and distributes federal student loans, Pell Grants, and other federal and state aid requires a well-trained, knowledgeable financial aid staff.

“The government has many regulations we must abide by,” she said. “Some of those reach across the entire campus. We have to work closely with the registrar’s office, campus security, and other departments to make sure everything is on track.

“We must stay in the good graces of the federal government and the Department of Education so that we won’t have any unnecessary obstacles to overcome that may prevent us from receiving those federal funds.”

Colyer said she is looking forward to becoming familiar with the culture of MC’s Financial Aid Office.

“When you’ve been working in one organization as long as I did at Belhaven, you get to know all of its nuances,” she said. “When you go to a new place, however, you have to learn and adapt to the new location’s way of doing things.

“I don’t think that will be a problem. I’ve been identifying some things and trying to make some things more automated and a little easier for the staff here and other departments that work with financial aid. I’d like to implement training and learning opportunities for the financial aid staff.”

While she plans to make incremental adjustments to the office as needed in the short term, Colyer said she is patiently developing her long-range strategy to improve financial aid at MC in the future.

“I’ve been collecting my thoughts, writing down my ideas, without turning over the apple cart,” she said. “We’re going to take things slowly, especially in my first year, and make changes only as needed. We’re going to make sure the changes we make are the correct ones and that we maintain the level of efficiency that the staff has worked so hard to attain.”

Colyer and her husband, Keith, a retired Air Force reservist and AGUP Equipment employee, enjoy traveling and camping throughout the U.S.

“If I’m not on a trip, then I’m planning a trip,” Colyer said with a laugh.

Their favorite destinations are the places where their grown children live. The couple’s oldest son, Evan, lives in St. Louis; their middle son, Chris, his wife, Taylor, and their 2-year-old daughter, Mallie, live in Florence; and their daughter, Madison Malloy, and her husband, Thomas, live outside of Orlando. They recently took Mallie on her first trip to Disney World.

“That’s my stress relief – traveling and spending time with my family,” Colyer said.

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