Lawrence’s national standing as the place to call to get answers about student financial aid is getting a boost with a major expansion of a private call center.
A little-known Lawrence-based call center that handles questions about student financial aid confirmed Thursday that it is expanding into the former Tanger Outlet Mall in North Lawrence and plans to add more than 30 employees by early next year.
Student Financial Aid Services Inc. has signed a lease to move into 19,000 square feet of space in the I-70 Business Center in North Lawrence. The company currently operates from the Golf Course Superintendent’s Association building in west Lawrence, but the sputtering economy has created new demand for the company that provides assistance for people applying for federal student aid.
“A lot of people who are looking for a job are getting the response that education is very important,” said Aaron Detwiler, vice president of operations for the company. “You have a lot more people going back to school, and that has caused the phone to ring more.”
The expansion adds to Lawrence’s reputation as a hub for the student financial aid industry. Vangent, the city’s largest private employer, operates a call center in the East Hills Business Park for people who have questions about filling out the financial aid application available on the government’s website.
Student Financial Aid Services’ Lawrence call center does the same type of work, except for a private website that offers a paid service for people who need additional assistance in filling out the application.
“We compare our business to a tax preparation service,” Detwiler said. “Everybody has the opportunity to submit the information for free, but a lot of people choose to go to a professional.”
In addition, the company also works with several Fortune 500 companies to manage their employee tuition reimbursement programs.
The company has been on a strong growth curve. The call center had eight employees in 2007 but grew to 70 employees earlier this year. The company has added another 20 employees in recent weeks, and expects to be to 125 employees by the middle of January. In total, the move will allow the company to add about 105 employees, Detwiler estimated.
The company plans to hire for four types of positions as part of its expansion:
• Student aid advisers who respond to inbound calls from existing clients who need assistance in preparing for financial aid assistance.
• Student aid sales specialists who handle inbound calls from first-time clients inquiring about the company’s services.
• Service center supervisors who manage teams of about 15 to 20 advisers.
• A variety of positions in marketing, human resources, training and quality assurance.
Detwiler said almost all of the position will be full-time with benefits. He said most of the jobs will pay around the $11.50 per hour range, in addition to monthly performance bonuses.
The company — which is a subsidiary of a larger financial aid services company, The Rezolve Group — plans on hosting an on-site job fair in early 2012.