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James Blackburn has over 25 years in higher education, with 20 years of experience in financial aid administration and 10 years leading high-volume financial aid processing operations. He excels in transforming organizations through innovative problem-solving and continuous process improvement.

James began his higher education career as an instructor at a technical college. In 1994, he moved into college administration and was named Director of Finance. He had joint responsibility for finance and financial aid. While in this position, James focused on improving student support services, enhancing compliance and enabling technology. During his tenure with the institution, James demonstrated a significant interest in student success and retention programs. He created a cartoon-based instruction guide for students which was widely credited for simplifying the financial aid process.

In 2005, James joined a private college with multiple campuses throughout the country. As a Divisional Director of Student Finance, James was instrumental in improving the overall student experience and strengthening financial aid compliance measures. He served on a task force responsible for establishing policies and procedures to ensure high levels of financial aid compliance. He also was instrumental in establishing a centralized financial aid processing center to support multiple campuses.

In 2007, James accepted a leadership role in a high-volume shared services center responsible for awarding, disbursing and returning financial aid for a network of campuses. In this role, James exhibited significant operations, process improvement and technical capabilities as he helped transform the operation into a highly effective delivery system with a focus on quality.

In several capacities, James has used data and analytics to help establish shared services operations centered around excellence. James believes successful and thriving financial aid offices are established on five pillars of focus: people, process, technology, quality, and training.

James holds a Bachelors of General Studies from Indiana University, a Masters of Business Administration from Auburn University and a Masters of Arts in Humanities from California State University, Dominguez Hills. He is a Certified Management Accountant through the Institute of Management Accountants. He also holds certifications as a Six Sigma Black Belt and a Software Quality Engineer from the American Society for Quality.


FAS really has top-notch people. They are very professional and easy to deal with. It’s an organization I can trust and be assured that whatever they do or advise will be accepted by the DOE as being true and compliant."

- Eric Nelson | Vice President for Finance | Wesley College