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College district account technician lauded for helping students afford higher education

Posted on: Nov 8, 2010 1:00:00 AM

Contact: Della Elliott

College district account technician lauded

for helping students afford higher education 

Worker recipient of employee-recognition award for

successful startup of payment plan for student fees

EL CAJON – Math is a great divider of people. Either you are a numbers person, or you’re not.

Barbara Hashiguchi, an account technician for the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District, is one of those who relishes working with figures. But don’t mistake her for a numbers nerd, happy to work in solitude, staring at columns of figures with her adding machine at the ready.

A five-year employee of the East County college district, Hashiguchi is a rare breed, a numbers cruncher with a flair for listening to people talk about life’s challenges and helping to find answers. The skills have proven invaluable to the district and led to Hashiguichi’s promotion from clerical assistant in the district’s accounting office to her current post helping financially strapped students get on a new payment plan she helped implement locally.

The service, started last fall, allows students to pay student fees incrementally during the course of a semester, thus avoiding the risk of being dropped from classes for non-payment. This semester, nearly 1,500 students owing a total of $780,000 to the district have been able to get on the payment plan, thus  allowing them to continue their education and the district to recover fees which otherwise would likely have remained delinquent.

Since the program’s start, the district has recovered $2.3 million, said accounting manager Linda Jensen, who nominated Hashiguchi for the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District Chancellor/Classified Senate Award, a commendation presented quarterly to outstanding non-instructional staff.

Hashiguchi was presented an engraved trophy at a recent governing board meeting in recognition of her exemplary work, along with a $250 gift certificate from Barnes & Noble and a lunch with the chancellor and governing board president.

“Barbara is wonderful – we love her,” Jensen said of the Chula Vista resident. “She is so student-oriented.”

The payment plan is offered through FACTS/Nelnet Business Solutions, the nation’s leading provider of tuition payment plans, but as the district’s representative of the payment program, Hashiguchi’s role is primarily as the go-between for the student or parent and the Nelnet plan.

“Her primary duty in this area remains that of student advocate, providing information and resolving problems for students, cashiers, and other Nelnet Payment Plan administrators,” Jensen wrote in her nomination form. “Barbara has voluntarily taken on the additional task of fielding the many phone calls from payment plan students and Nelnet employees. Her excellent communication skills and patient demeanor enable her to lend a calm and quiet air to verbally volatile situations, allowing her to extract important information necessary to resolve the conflict or issue. Her laugh is infectious, and her willingness to help a student or fellow staff member has not yet met a boundary.”

Hashiguchi, who also manages the finances for Cuyamaca College’s ornamental horticulture department and for Cuyamaca’s student government organization, sees her job as primarily that of a communicator.

“My main responsibility is to help everyone understand what is expected from them,” she said. “Then find ways for them to meet those expectations. Communication is key to any situation.”

The Philadelphia native began keeping the books for her father’s gardening business when she was 16. She relocated to San Diego as a teen when her father, a native of the area, decided to return to his hometown following the loss of his wife to breast cancer. During World War II, he was one of estimated 120,000 Japanese-Americans forced into internment camps.

Discovering she had a knack for figures, Hashiguchi took accounting classes at Southwestern College and went on to work for 20 years as a bookkeeper for a painting contractor, then an office manager for 15 years for Piatt Construction, both part-time positions that allowed her to be at home when her children returned from school.

When her children finished high school, she applied for the college district job in the accounting office.

“I enjoy helping the students and parents understand their financial obligations to the college,
 she said. “It is very satisfying when I can help someone find a solution to their problem.”

Cindy L. Miles, Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District chancellor, said Hashiguchi’s willingness to step forward and take on a project with the magnitude of the payment plan exemplifies a can-do attitude found in the best employees.

“The students and the district as a whole benefit hugely from Barbara’s willingness to go the extra mile and take on challenging assignments,” she said.

Debi Miller, the district’s Classified Senate president, said Hashiguchi is the perfect example of someone working outside the classroom whose contributions are invaluable to ensure student success.

Hashiguchi and her husband, Glenn, have been married for 11 years. When she isn’t working, enjoys water aerobics, traveling with her family and volunteering at her church. Her two children are Jeffrey, 27, an assistant chef for a cruise ship owned by Norwegian Cruise Lines; and Jennifer, 26, a business manager for Target in Plaza Bonita.

“My son attended one semester at Grossmont College’s ROP (Regional Occupation Program) culinary classes and loved it,” she said. “He went on to get a culinary degree from the Art Institute of San Diego.”
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