2016 NASFAA Benchmarking Report

NASFAA has conducted benchmarking surveys of financial aid administrators and offices for more than two decades. This report presents findings from the 2015 NASFAA Benchmarking Survey (formerly NASFAA Salary Model Survey and NASFAA Staffing Model Report), which updates the 1995, 1999, 2006, and 2012 reports. Where possible, this report shows trends in data between the 2012 and 2016 reports.

Benchmarking Report CoverThis report, the 2016 NASFAA Benchmarking Report: Key Factors That Impact Financial Aid Office Salaries, Staff Size, Administrative Capacity, and Campus Relations, also provides a description of the Staffing Model and Salary Model that identifies and explains the key factors used to create the models. These models (or calculations) produce a general measure of how much individuals with similar characteristics (e.g., position, years of experience, gender, region) earn or how offices with similar characteristics (e.g., size, institution type, control) are staffed. Details on the individual models may be found below.

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Key Findings from the 2016 Benchmarking Report


  • In 2014-15, the overall median salary for financial aid office (FAO) employees was $45,000, which is $470 less than 2012.
  • Males now make $7,669 (15 percent) more annually on average than females, as opposed to $11,819 (21 percent) in 2012.
  • Doctorate degree holders (Ph.D., Ed.D., etc.) saw the largest salary change, with a median salary increase of $4,565 from 2012 to 2015.


  • Just over half of responding institutions indicated they had programs subject to gainful employment (GE) requirements and 96 percent indicated that GE requirements will put a strain on the office’s operational capacity.
  • More than half (57 percent) of respondents reported having a financial literacy program already in place, and just under half had a default management program (43 percent) and/or default prevention plan (42 percent).
  • In 2015, the overall average number of aid applicants per institution was 9,354 and aid recipients was 6,498. This represents a dramatic increase since 2006, with an average of 3,581 more applicants and 2,537 more recipients reported in 2015.
  • Based on the responses received, the average school has 11 full-time employees, but only 2.8 to serve every 1,000 aid applicants.

Campus Relations

  • Nearly three-fourths of schools indicated their current reporting structure was either “very appropriately” or “appropriately” placed within the institution.
  • Schools overwhelmingly reported feeling that the support received from most offices at the institution was adequate for compliance purposes.
  • Nearly 90 percent of FAOs reported providing information about changes in regulatory requirements to other administrators at the institution.
  • Across the institutional goals addressed in the survey, on average, financial aid objectives had a “high” alignment in meeting institutional goals for 49 percent of respondents and were “not aligned” with institutional goals for only 6 percent of respondents.

For additional questions about the 2016 Benchmarking Survey Report, Staffing Model, or Salary Predictor Model please contact NASFAA’s Research Department at [email protected] or (202) 785-7284.

Publication Date: 2/10/2016

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