Special JSFA Issue Offers Five Ways FAAs Can Get Ready for HEA Reauthorization

By Brittany Hackett, Communications Staff

With the approach of the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA), financial aid administrators have a unique opportunity to help shape changes in regulations, as well as play a role in implementing change on their campuses, according to a new article in the Journal of Student Financial Aid (JSFA).

The article – co-authored by the University of Louisville’s Brittany Inge, the University of Michigan’s Pamela Fowler, and the University of Louisville’s Jacob P. Gross – appears in this month’s special edition of the JSFA, which celebrates the 50th anniversary of the signing of the HEA. In the article, the authors offer five actions financial aid administrators can take to prepare for reauthorization and any changes that may result from the new legislation.

  1. Become More Knowledgeable: Financial aid administrators can prepare for potential HEA changes by “engaging in proactive groundwork” and “staying abreast of the discourse” surrounding reauthorization, including connecting with regional and local professional networks, the authors wrote. This kind of engagement makes administrators “better equipped to anticipate and prepare for forthcoming changes” and better able to advocate for their students and institutions, they added, highlighting several ways NASFAA members can improve their knowledge, including reviewing our HEA Reauthorization web resource page.
  2. Plan Ahead: Whether small or large, the financial aid office should take time to create a comprehensive plan for addressing changes in the legislation. The authors suggest first creating a “high-level” plan early in the process to determine what the new law requires, followed by a more detailed action plan that will address specific changes needed on your campus. It will also be important to consider the impact any changes will have on students and other stakeholders, as well as how they might be involved throughout the process. And aid administrators should leave some flexibility in their plans to address the final regulations that come out of the Department of Education (ED). Tools and resources like NASFAA’s Self-Evaluation Guide can help an office determine how to best reallocate resources and staff to respond to changes, the authors wrote.
  3. Use Outside Resources: The planning process may include conversations about when it is necessary to outsource products and resources within your office, such as net price calculators or college affordability and transparency lists.
  4. Share Changes With Others: Financial aid administrators hold a unique position on campus and “should function as liaisons on campus by educating colleagues about the impending reauthorization and its potential effects on the institution, as well as their areas of responsibility,” according to the authors. Prior to reauthorization, administrators should communicate with stakeholders that will be impacted, such as campus leadership, which “may help their institution better prepare for the changes on the horizon,” they added. This will also help the financial aid office lobby for the office’s needs. Administrators should look for ways to use multiple platforms to communicate, including email, text messaging, social media, and campus websites, and should plan to engage students and the campus community on relevant changes. 
  5. Participate in the Regulatory Process: The negotiated rulemaking process hosted by ED to develop final regulations provides multiple opportunities for financial aid administrators to participate in shaping regulations, whether it is through submitting comments to ED, serving on a negotiated rulemaking panel, or submitting comments and feedback to NASFAA.

As policymakers place a greater focus on financial aid policy, financial aid administrators find themselves in “a particularly exciting climate,” the authors concluded. “By exploring and engaging in the formation of student aid policy, financial aid administrators can be well-prepared to minimize the potential negative consequences of any change” through reauthorization.


Publication Date: 11/6/2015

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