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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The University of Tennessee-Knoxville financial aid office and its associate director, Margaret Miller, have received the highest honors given to financial aid institutions by the U.S. Department of Education.

The 1996 Institutional Model of Quality Award and the Institutional Achievement Award were presented to the office’s quality assurance team for exemplary management practices. Miller received the 1996 Leadership Award.

The financial aid office is a member of the Quality Assurance program, a partnership between the education department and approximately 130 U.S. universities and colleges, designed to improve the quality of financial aid programs. Each year the department recognizes the school that best exemplifies its goals.

UT has been awarded the Institutional Achievement Award every year since 1993.

“(In the partnership) we sign an agreement with the Department of Education to do certain things they ask us to do,” Miller said. “By signing the agreement, we take the responsibility of looking for creative ways to run our office better, rather than waiting for a federal regulation to tell us to do things a certain way.”

Ten members of the financial aid office make up UT-Knoxville’s quality assurance team. Each fall, the team conducts a random sampling of all students who have applied for financial aid. Approximately 300 students are selected for an intensive audit process.

The procedure enables the team to spot the most frequent errors being made by students while applying for financial aid. The team then plans ways of reducing these errors in the upcoming year, she said.

According to summary reports compiled by the education department, these audited students have shown a greatly reduced rate of error in the last four years.

UT-Knoxville’s QA team has been included in the department’s “Successful Practices” manual and QA program workbook. The team’s annual written report is sent as an example to all national QA teams, and Miller is a trainer at the department’s mandatory annual training workshops for all new QA schools.

Contact: Margaret Miller (423-974-1447)