“We’re asking students to do the impossible,” Marcus Szymanoski, regulatory affairs manager for DeVry Education Group and inaugural winner of “The Big Idea: NASFAA’s Policy Challenge,” said at a session Monday morning. When we speak of financial literacy, we’re telling students to plan ahead and to make educated decisions, but we’re not giving them the tools they need to plan for the entire length of their program, he explained.
During the session, Szymanoski shared the policy proposals contained within his Student Aid Modernization Initiative (SAMI) white paper, published by NASFAA in June, and discussed how SAMI would work within the current federal student aid infrastructure.
Under the current system, “if you’re a student and you’re enrolling in a four-year program … you’re committing to a bill that is tens of thousands of dollars, if not more, yet you really only know for sure what the financial aid is for the first year,” Szymanoski said. You can assume that if your financial situation stays more or less the same, you may have a similar financial aid package in the following years, “but there’s a lot of variables,” Szymanoski said. There’s appropriations, your eligibility could change, etc., but under SAMI, a student’s federal financial aid award would be linked directly with their educational progress, ensuring proportional distribution of financial aid as a student moves through their academic program.
The approach, Szymanoski explained, would streamline the financial aid process because students would complete the FAFSA just once, at the beginning of their academic program, and would then be awarded financial aid for the entire length of their program. In addition to supporting traditional college goers, SAMI would better support “non-traditional” students because it would result in predictable and appropriate award amounts, he said.
In addition to increasing precision of federal student aid awards, SAMI would make it more difficult for students to incur excessive loan debt and would empower them to make financially-informed enrollment decisions. “The whole intent behind this is to have students who start school on day one understand how much their program will cost. Not just the first year, all of it,” Szymanoski said.
Publication Date: 7/11/2016