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Meet a College Finance Expert: Zachery Gries

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Zachery Gries College Coach

Written by Zachery Grieson February 19th, 2024

I joined College Coach’s finance team after working in the financial aid office at my alma mater, Loras College. While at Loras, I helped develop and create models to award our merit scholarship dollars and our need based resources and assisted students and parents with financial aid applications. I also reviewed and decided on appeals and negotiations along with a committee, and provided loan counseling to students and families I have also been very active in state financial aid associations, most recently finishing as the chair of the professional development committee. I completed my master’s degree in Business and Analytics and have a Bachelor’s degree in public relations.
Learn More About Zachery
Our Meet a Finance Educator series introduces students and parents to members of the Bright Horizons College Coach finance team. Drop in to see what we do to relax, where we went to college, the best financial advice we’ve received, and how we work with families to navigate the college finance process. Whether you’re looking to appeal a financial aid offer, maximize merit scholarship opportunities, or spend your assets strategically, our college finance experts are here to help. Today we introduce Zachery Gries. What are you reading, watching, and/or listening to lately? I love Survivor. I am reading a book called Outlive about long term health and longevity. I saw Barbie and Oppenheimer and both were incredible. What do you do for fun or to relax? I love to be with people, to hear about their perspectives and lives, and ask questions. I have a dog who is a bit older (13), so I also enjoy being outside with him. What are some of your interests—things that fascinate you or send you down internet rabbit holes, or things you love to learn more about? Is Wanda the most powerful Avenger in the Marvel Cinematic Universe? What would it be like if humans could build a city under water? And of course, as a college finance professional, I love all things financial aid. Do you do any volunteer work? If so, what, and are there certain causes that are close to your heart? I volunteer with state financial aid organizations and last year I ran my state’s professional development organization. -- What would you like to go back and tell your high school self about the college application process? I’d encourage myself to consider more elements throughout the journey. Now, I see all the ways a college can serve a student, so I would tell myself to think more about who I am and what I’d benefit from in a college. What jobs did you have as a student? I taught swim lessons, made fundraising calls to alumni, and worked for city government and a social media company. -- Where did you work in financial aid? I worked in financial aid at the college I attended! I always loved the idea of serving the institution because it had such a transformative and positive impact on my life. That first role with a college helped me learn about the profession and, as I began to meet others in our state and industry, I grew to love the work. I’ve stayed in this field ever since and thoroughly enjoy it. How do you encourage families to incorporate financial fit into their college search? As a financial aid officer, I’d often hear from families who thought about financial fit at the end of their process once they decided where to go. There are far fewer options for a family in this case. I suggest that families think about this much earlier so we can optimize the journey early and maximize our opportunities. What aspect of the college finance process do you most enjoy working on? I love helping with all aspects! I try to make things understandable, which can sometimes be a challenge because of the complexity of college financing. What is the advice you give students who are thinking about borrowing loans for college? Think big picture! I’ve met with students who were willing to take on any amount of loans simply to solve the problem directly in front of them. I’d try to break the process up into pieces so that students knew before they acted. Borrowing is not necessarily bad if you are sure your future income will be sufficient to pay back the loans. What is the best financial advice you ever received? My dad communicated often about money and investing. While I appreciated his advice, I really benefitted from how he modeled that behavior. I once wanted to buy new swim goggles that were more expensive than the ones I needed. He bought me a basic pair, and said I would either need to do more chores and save for the nicer pair, or we’d have to wait for the stock market to grow enough to pull the extra funds from that account. I’ve carried some of those approaches to money with me even as an adult. While I worked extra, the stock market happened to be growing fast at the time, so I was able to get those nice goggles within a few weeks.

Meet our team of college finance experts, former financial aid officers who know the ins and outs of college financing.


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