NASFAA Makes Recommendations for FSA’s 5-Year Strategic Plan

In a letter to the Department of Education, NASFAA stresses the value and function of financial aid administrators (FAAs) as Federal Student Aid (FSA) begins to finalize a Strategic Plan for Fiscal Years 2012-16.

In the Jan. 17 letter, NASFAA recommends the Department more clearly define the role of financial aid administrators and their relationship with FSA, while making room for improved communication between the two groups and enhanced evaluation of administrative burden. NASFAA also recommended that the plan better address the complexities of rising college costs, and that FAAs be given more opportunity to provide feedback on FSA’s five-year strategic plan.

NASFAA’s Board of Directors and NASFAA staff collaborated to review the draft strategic plan and provide the following recommendations to FSA:

1. College Costs Within Context – In summarizing the issue of rising college costs in the context of FSA’s five-year strategic plan, the plan as presented fails to acknowledge the many factors that contribute to increases in cost of attendance, leaving the impression that institutions are wholly responsible for this growth. NASFAA believed the plan would be better served by detailing the “sub-trends” that have led to increased costs of attendance, including:

  • Decreased state and local funding
  • Increased regulation and cost of compliance
  • Growth in enrollment and subsequent need for infrastructure development

2. The Role of the Financial Aid Administrator and Relationship to FSA – Though the plan mentions the financial aid administrator (FAA) several times, NASFAA believes that the report could be strengthened by the inclusion of a clear definition of the role of the FAA at the beginning of the report and a definition of the relationship between FSA and FAAs. NASFAA believes that FAAs play a vital role in the administration of FSA goals, rules and regulations, such as the transition to Direct Lending, and as such should be regarded as both partners and customers.

3. Continual Feedback from Schools - Throughout the strategic plan, there are very few references to how FSA plans to solicit feedback and ideas from FAAs in order to better serve them as they serve students and families. NASFAA would prefer to see clearer language specifying how FSA would collect information from FAAs on improvements they might need to identify eligible students and ensure compliance.

4. Measurement of Administrative Burden - While NASFAA appreciates FSA’s desire to improve support, communications, and processes for postsecondary and financial institutions, the plan neglects to address FSA’s plans for administrative relief for schools. NASFAA would also like to see an effort to redefine the way in which FSA measures administrative burden. 

5. Outcome Evaluation Metrics - NASFAA would like to see greater input from the aid community and other external stakeholders in evaluating the five-year plan. 

NASFAA’s Board of Directors and NASFAA staff collaborated to review the draft strategic plan and provide these recommendations to FSA.

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