The Future Of College Financial Aid: An Interview With Justin Draeger

"With college costs continuing to rise and the US economy still sputtering, financial aid for college is more important than ever to families trying to foot the bill. The big question then is what is the future of college financial aid? For that answer I turned to the man at the top, Justin Draeger, the President of the National Association of Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA)," Forbes reports

"The nation’s college aid professionals make up NASFAA’s membership, allowing Draeger’s to keep his finger on the pulse of what is going on with billions in college aid. Ahead of NASFAA’s annual conference later this month in Nashville, Mr. Draeger took time for the Q&A below. ...

2. What has changed in financial aid from five years ago? 

Overall we’ve seen additional public disinvestment in higher education from federal, state, and local governments–meaning students and families are picking up a greater share of the costs of college, usually through price increases that are covered by loans.

The elimination of the option for students to use Pell Grants year round and the loss of subsidies on graduate student loans are just two examples of benefit losses for students. Other changes – like new limitations on financial aid eligibility criteria – are much less transparent to the public.

With these rollbacks, much of the public policy and media attention has shifted away from grants to student loans and consumer choice. Many of President Obama’s initiatives have focused on making student loan debt affordable and Congress has held countless hearings in the last few years focused squarely on college price and student indebtedness.

On a brighter note, we continue to make strides in simplifying the financial aid application process for students. Using advanced skip logic and providing students with the ability to retrieve and import their tax information directly into their federal financial aid application are big steps forward.

What do you think the financial aid experience will be in five more years for students attending state universities, private colleges and elite private colleges? 

With flat enrollment projections overall, I think we’re going to see more colleges struggle with balancing their budgets, which could mean fewer higher education options for students.

Without a roaring economic recovery, it’s unlikely we’ll see dramatic increases in federal and state financial aid (state support of higher education hasn’t even recovered to pre-recession levels yet). Much of the higher education focus will rest on doing more with less (or the same); in other words, how do we increase student outcomes, success and completion with the dollars currently provided?

We’ll likely start seeing more experiments with financial aid programs being tailored toward new learning models. Financial aid today is based on a system that primarily counts 'seat-time.' But new models – from online learning, to competency based education – demand we rethink how financial aid can work for these programs."

Read the full interview at Forbes.

NASFAA's "Financial Aid in the News" section highlights media coverage of financial aid to help members stay up to date with the latest news. Inclusion in Today's News does not imply endorsement of the material or guarantee the accuracy of information presented.