About Catherine Graham

Nice to meet you

Catherine Graham
College Financial Aid Expert, Teacher, Consultant & Speaker

Founder & CEO of The Financial Aid Shop™

As a financial aid professional who has worked in and directed college Financial Aid Offices and continues to consult for schools across the county, Catherine has had a seat at the table. She has decided who, when, and why a student would receive financial aid (or not).


She knows how it’s done and why. She’s been there working for families and schools, and still is. Catherine offers neutral financial aid education to families in the U.S. interested in attending any school in the country. 

Thirty Years in High Education

Throughout her career, Catherine has delivered over $2.6 billion in financial assistance to thousands of students and their families at small, mid-sized, and large universities including:

  • Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles, CA (Director of Financial Aid)
  • Whittier College, Whittier, CA (Director of Financial Aid)
  • University of Southern California, L.A,  CA  (Asst. Director of Financial Aid)
  • Northrop University, Los Angeles, CA (Director of Financial Aid)

In addition, she has consulted in Financial Aid Offices at:

  • University of La Verne, La Verne, CA
  • Vanguard University, Costa Mesa, CA
  • Charles Drew University of Medicine, Los Angeles, CA
  • Colorado State University at Pueblo, Pueblo, CO
  • Jacksonville State University, Jacksonville, AL
  • Missouri Western State University, St, Joseph, MO
  • University of Louisville, Louisville, KY
  • University of Illinois, Springfield, IL
  • University of Central Arkansas, Conway, AR
  • Kettering College, Dayton, OH

Catherine has served on the College Board, California Student Aid Commission (CSAC) Grant Advisory Group and the California Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (CASFAA).


As financial aid educator, consultant and speaker, she provides financial aid education to families to improve students financial aid experiences and outcomes.  Catherine educates students and families to increase their financial aid knowledge and help minimize concerns about college affordability. It is her hope every family will select the college or university that meets the all-important “Financial Fit.”


In addition to her work with The Financial Aid Shop, she is currently active with:

  • South Bay Business Women’s Association, Executive Board & Scholarship Chair
  • Beach Cities Health District, member, Mental Health Advisory Council
  • Redondo Beach Chamber of Commerce
    • Economic Development Council (EDC), member
  • Beach Cities Health District 2019 Micro Grant Award Recipient
  • National Association of Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA), member
  • Western Association of College Admissions Counselors (WACAC), member

Catherine is a third-generation Californian living and working in Redondo Beach, CA.  She holds a B.S degree from the University of Redlands and a Master in Public Administration from the University of Southern California. She is an advocate for foster youth and a former Los Angeles County foster parent.

I am a student loan borrower. I borrowed $24,602 to get my education and had a monthly payment of $326 per month for ten years.  Had I known then what I know now, I would not have borrowed those loans…

Catherine Graham, College Financial Aid Educator, Speaker, Coach, Consultant

Catherine's Story

For the last 30 years, I've been working at colleges and universities in admissions and financial aid.  


In 2015, Graham Strategies Inc. was founded, and I began consulting for colleges and universities.  Assisting my fellow admissions and financial aid colleagues with compliance, training, program audits and technology and communications to support student recruitment and retention is challenging yet rewarding work. This work has made these schools financial aid processes easier for students and parents just like you.


My own financial aid story began in my senior year in high school as a financial aid applicant and as a work study student at the University of Redlands.  I did not know it at the time, but as a campus tour guide and over-night host, I was learning about admissions and financial aid.   I enjoyed sharing my college experience with prospective students and before graduating from college sought a job in college admissions.


My first job was an admissions counselor at Northrop University. I was a member of their first ever admissions team.  I developed and led the campus visit program and, like any new admissions person, became a road warrior – recruiting students from Northern California, Oregon and Washington. 


It was also at Northrop that I was asked to “keep the Financial Aid Office open” when the director resigned.  I spent 18 months learning about financial aid  and was hooked. I loved the combination of helping students and working in finance – financial aid incorporated my passions, interests and skills.   During this time I learned how amazing and supportive the people who work in financial aid are, AND how challenging the work can be.


Since that first job at Northrop University, I've had the privilege of working in the Financial Aid Office at USC where I developed policy and procedures for new federal aid regulations and worked closely with students.  I earned my Master’s Degree in Public Administration and connected with the Department of Social Work and learned about the plight of foster youth and the challenges they faced in seeking and attending college.


My interest in foster youth led me to work closely with the Los Angeles County Department of Children’s Services and develop “bridge housing programs” for foster youth attending colleges in Los Angeles.


I held my first Financial Aid Director position at Whittier College, and the second at Loyola Marymount University and in between these two colleges I worked for Versura, Inc. – an exciting new tech company that developed an on-line competitive student loan marketplace. 


Becoming a Los Angeles County certified foster parent was a personal highlight. Fostering four children over the course of four years was an experience that I will carry with me always.  Advocating for foster youth and financial aid will always be a priority.


In the Spring of 2018 and following my heart and true passion, I launched The Financial Aid Shop, a company dedicated to assisting students and parents navigate college financial aid and the skyrocketing costs of college.


My first education program, Financial Aid Formula is built on encouraging and challenging students (and their parents) to ask the right questions to ensure a successful college financial aid experience not only today, but for tomorrow.


There are thousands of financial aid stories out there.  Every time I tell someone what I do, they tell me their financial aid story whether it be the parent, student, grandparent. More often than not, these stories do not have a happy ending. It is my mission to change this.  We need different stories to tell about financial aid. 


I look forward to meeting you and working together as we change the way you, our families and our schools & communities think about and plan for college and  financial aid.


Send me a note if you would like to connect or learn more about The Financial Aid Shop and the courses we offer.

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