With 26 years in education finance, Brett Lindquist shares his thoughts on ScholarNet, financial aid, and great working environments.
We recently caught up with Managing Director of ScholarNet Brett Lindquist, and he shared his experience with the origins of ScholarNet® and how it’s evolved. We learned how he values his experience working within higher education, and as part of teams at Great Lakes and Nelnet – and how he’s been able to use what he’s learned to help them develop resources and solutions that meet evolving needs.
How long have you been working with financial aid professionals and lenders?
Brett Lindquist: I started my career in education finance in 1994 and I’m just past 26 years now.
How did you get your start in this field – and what kept you here?
BL: It was totally random – I took a temp job after I graduated from college. I stayed because of the people I worked with and great organizations I’ve worked for (Great Lakes and now Nelnet). Most importantly, it’s the role we play in helping people achieve success in their lives through higher education.
Tell us briefly about the origins of ScholarNet and how it came to be. What was your involvement?
BL: I was the Wisconsin sales rep at the time of ScholarNet’s launch. We had a product in the market called Scholar that was a PC-based version of the product. I can’t say I was heavily involved in the development, but I’m proud to say the first school using ScholarNet was one of my schools, and I worked hard to get all the Wisconsin schools transitioned over in short order.
How has ScholarNet changed over the years?
BL: The biggest change occurred when the Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP) was eliminated and all new student loans made were Direct Loans through the federal government. This shifted the focus to private loans in ScholarNet and it’s been that way ever since. Private student loans are a critical solution for parents and students who are trying to pay for school – and the products we’ve created really help make that process better for the students, parents and, of course, the schools and lenders themselves.
Where do you see ScholarNet headed – or how do you see it changing, if at all?
BL: ScholarNet will continue to evolve with the market and, as schools’ and lenders’ needs change, we’ll change with it. The students and parents have also changed and how people access information about financing options and how they go about obtaining student loans has changed a great deal – even in the last few years. This is one of the reasons we overhauled the user interface in FastChoice™ this last year. The focus will be to keep the great service and the reliable processes – that won’t change. But we’ll make changes to address new needs and preferences to ensure schools are able to serve their students and parents really well.
What makes ScholarNet special?
BL: The “secret sauce” isn’t so secret – we have great people. The average tenure of our team is amazing and they apply this knowledge and experience to everything they do to support the products and our customers. No one will accuse us of being overly flashy, and that’s fine with us. We’ve always been about the substance and making sure we’re providing real value to the customers using our products.
How have your responsibilities changed in recent years?
BL: I’ve been very fortunate through the years to have had opportunities to grow within the organization. And I’m very thankful to have landed within Nelnet, as it’s an organization well-suited to my personality and approach to serving customers. Currently, I’m responsible for the ScholarNet business line and a variety of other marketing and business development responsibilities within Nelnet Diversified Services. ScholarNet has such a great team with Mike Mutziger and Gwen Yancey. I see my role as making sure they have everything they need to be successful.
What’s kept you at Great Lakes (and now Nelnet) all these years?
BL: As stated previously, it’s the people first and foremost. An important core value I have is to make sure work is enjoyable and, thankfully, that’s one of Nelnet’s as well. That’s important as we spend so much time at work. Beyond that, I’d say it’s the variety and criticality of the work I’ve been involved in that’s kept it really interesting. Working with great people I like a lot on really challenging opportunities – what could be better?
What keeps you excited about coming to work each day/what do you like about what you’re currently doing?
BL: New and interesting challenges and the comradery of my coworkers.
When you’re not at work, what keeps you busy?
BL: My wife and I live a pretty simple life with our three kids being the focus right now. We love anything involving water, and we try to get out on our boat whenever we can.
We invite you to learn more about Brett and others on the ScholarNet team. Have questions? As Brett said, we’re not flashy, but you won’t find more knowledgeable people – and our service is exceptional. Reach out to your rep with questions or to get started with ScholarNet or FastChoice for faster, smarter processing of private student loans that helps you better serve students and their families.