Partners In Policy: The National Association For College Admission Counseling

Policy Partners HDR 

By Brittany Hackett, Communications Staff 

Welcome to NASFAA’s Partners in Policy, an occasional series in which we profile colleagues at the associations, foundations, and think tanks that NASFAA works with to advance higher education and financial aid policies. In this installment, we profile David Hawkins and Michael Rose with the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC). 

As more institutions are combining financial aid and admissions under the same enrollment management umbrella, the partnerships between financial aid administrators and admissions counselors continue to be vital to campuses and the students and families they serve, as well as in the world of higher education policy.

While financial aid administrators have NASFAA as a professional and advocacy resource, their campus partners in the admissions office have the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC)

Founded in 1937, NACAC serves more than 14,000 admissions professionals worldwide, including high school counselors and college admissions officers at public and private institutions. Through their advocacy efforts in Washington, D.C., NACAC has worked to maintain student access to quality counseling, need-based financial aid, and consumer protections, as well as rigorous curriculum to ensure that high school students are college ready.

Michael RoseMichael Rose, associate director of government relations, and David Hawkins, executive director of educational content and policy, are two members of NACAC’s staff that work on these issues. Rose, who has been with the association for just over three years, represents NACAC in meetings with Congress, the White House, and other organizations. Hawkins, a 15-year veteran with NACAC, oversees the association’s government relations work and initiatives related to research, education, and training.

Both Rose and Hawkins cite their passion for making a difference and helping students achieve their higher goals as a driver for the work they do. 

“I sought out an advocacy job in education because I wanted to believe in what I do and, after working with our members and learning our issues, I can say I believe wholeheartedly in our work,” Rose said. 

“Whether it's our members, or the colleagues that I work with in partner organizations like NASFAA, I thoroughly enjoy working alongside people who are passionate about affording students the opportunity to blossom and find their way in the world,” Hawkins said, adding that his commitment to his work hinges on the beliefs that all people can succeed with the right encouragement and support, regardless of their circumstances, and that education “pays in so many ways.”

NACAC’s policy priorities focus in part on improving access to higher education through better counseling and ensuring the availability of need-based aid. 

David HawkinsResearching and applying for college “can be daunting even for the savviest of families,” Hawkins said. “But if a student has access to counseling, some of the barriers to access can be reduced and students can make better decisions about where to attend.”

Need-based financial aid, he added, is a priority “because no student should be denied a college degree because of cost, this is particularly true as budget cuts, economic difficulties, and tuition increases contribute to the financial barriers that students and families face.”

Like many areas of higher education, admissions counseling and financial aid have a lot in common with regard to the challenges they face. In particular, Hawkins said, financial aid policy is an area of common ground for NACAC and NASFAA members, with both groups grappling with budget cuts, the need the for more and better financial aid counseling, and the need for state and federal policymakers to have a better understanding of the financial aid process and transitioning to college. 

“As national organizations, we have a critical role in educating those who are making high-stakes decisions about our institutions and our professions,” Hawkins said.

The need to provide students and families with accurate information about the cost of college and financial aid is also an area of overlap for aid administrators and admissions counselors. While admissions counselors are able to help families understand the “broad picture” of financial aid, it is important “that communications with financial aid administrators are open and clear to ensure that students receive accurate information,” Rose said.

“Many times, the first question our admission officers are asked at NACAC's National College Fairs or in meetings with families is how much college will cost,” Rose said. “Our organization and our members often look to [NASFAA] members because paying for college is such a nuanced issue and varies from family to family.”

And as more institutions are combining the two departments to create a one-stop student services area on campus, there are likely to be more opportunities for cross-training and interaction between administrators from admission and financial aid. . 

“We consistently hear feedback from admission and financial aid offices that they crave more interaction with and exposure to their respective professional fields,” particularly for younger members of staff, Hawkins said. “NACAC and NASFAA can address that on a national level, but institutions can provide opportunities for new professionals to become more fluent in areas where they may not yet specialize.”

So what can the higher education community expect from NACAC in the coming years?

According to Hawkins, the focus will be on “bolstering” need-based financial aid, ensuring college readiness counseling measures are in place to help improve access and success, and to help protect students and taxpayers from fraud, abuse, and waste “at the hands of unscrupulous institutions.”

And in a larger sense, NACAC will continue to work to ensure that students have access to higher education regardless of their ability to pay, which was the original goal of the Higher Education Act of 1965. The association will also be working to bringing back the notion that higher education is a public good. Solving the barrier to higher education due to socio-economic difference “can and should be a top priority” over the next 10 plus years, Hawkins said.

“At risk of sounding like we're pining for days that are long gone, we often find ourselves lamenting the fact that the original policy goal of the Higher Education Act … has been distilled over time,” Hawkins said. “Over the next 10 years, if state and federal governments do not take significant steps toward keeping pace with the demand for public higher education, our system, such as it is, threatens to become an entirely private enterprise.”


Publication Date: 4/3/2015

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