NASFAA Launches Open-Access ‘Student Aid Reference Desk’ Database

New resource will serve as a centralized “encyclopedia” of student aid-related topics for counselors, researchers, scholars, and members of the media.

Contact: Erin Powers
Director of Marketing & Communications 
(202) 785-6959 
[email protected]

WASHINGTON, DC, MARCH 1, 2021 — As millions of families across the country grapple with the financial hardships brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, college access professionals, high school guidance counselors, researchers, community care professionals, and colleges and universities are clamoring for more information about all things financial aid. The National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA) today launched the Student Aid Reference Desk, a centralized “encyclopedia” of student aid-related topics that the higher education community can utilize, at no cost, to find compiled financial aid regulations, legislation, and other key resources organized by topical area. 

NASFAA has long seen the value in providing a resource of this type to its members. But particularly as Congress and the Department of Education continue to release guidance related to COVID-19, the association recognized that other offices on campus, higher education researchers, scholarship providers, foundations, lawmakers and more could also benefit, and in summer 2020 began seeking out grantors to assist in creating a student financial aid reference tool that would be free and open to the public. 

In July 2020, NASFAA was awarded a generous grant from ECMC Foundation to redesign and expand its formerly members-only Student Aid Index tool with an eye toward providing an accessible resource that eases research and advocacy for anyone interested in college access, success, and student financial aid. After many months of development and content collection, NASFAA is pleased to launch the new, publicly available “Ref Desk” platform. 

Trusted advisors and college access professionals will be able to use the Ref Desk to gain greater understanding of the student aid process as a whole, which will allow them to communicate with clarity about topics like grant programs, loan eligibility, verification requirements, and the appeal and professional judgement process by which a financial aid administrator may make adjustments to assess a student's need calculation to more accurately reflect a family’s financial circumstances.

“Making the Ref Desk open access will be a positive step forward for those in the higher education research, policy, and administration spaces, as well as high school guidance counselors, college administrators, and others supporting students in their pursuit of a higher education will have access to the tool,” said NASFAA President Justin Draeger. 

On a rolling basis, NASFAA will remove content that is no longer active, perform further programmatic adjustments to the site features, and add new content on timely college access and success topics.

To speak with a NASFAA spokesperson about this grant, this new tool, or any of the research or policy contained within the Student Aid Reference Desk, please contact NASFAA Director of Marketing and Communications Erin Powers

About  NASFAA 

The National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA) provides professional development for financial aid administrators; advocates for public policies that increase student access and success; serves as a forum on student financial aid issues; and is committed to diversity throughout all activities. NASFAA’s membership includes 22,000 student financial assistance professionals at approximately 3,000 colleges, universities, and career schools across the country. NASFAA member institutions serve nine out of every 10 undergraduates in the U.S. 

About ECMC Foundation

ECMC Foundation is a Los Angeles-based, nationally focused foundation whose mission is to inspire and to facilitate improvements that affect educational outcomes—especially among underserved populations—through evidence-based innovation. It is one of several affiliates under the ECMC Group enterprise based in Minneapolis. ECMC Foundation makes investments in two focus areas: College Success and Career Readiness; and uses a spectrum of funding structures, including strategic grantmaking and program-related investments, to invest in both nonprofit and for-profit ventures. Working with grantees, partners and peers, ECMC Foundation’s vision is for all learners to unlock their fullest potential. Learn more about ECMC Foundation by visiting and ECMC Group by visiting

Publication Date: 3/1/2021

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