Hundreds of Financial Aid Professionals Gather for NASFAA Leadership Conference

By Allie Bidwell, Communications Staff

Nearly 300 financial aid professionals gathered in Washington, DC Monday for networking and skill-building opportunities at NASFAA’s 2017 Leadership & Legislative Conference & Expo.

Throughout the week, attendees will have the chance to learn more about how enrollment management ties into the financial aid world, gain fundamental skills to serve as a financial aid director, or explore new leadership methods for roles in association management. Several attendees will also have the opportunity to meet with congressional delegations on Capitol Hill on Wednesday.

Yvonne Glashan, president-elect of the California Community Colleges Student Financial Aid Administrators Association (CCCSFAAA) said the association management track has been particularly beneficial for her.

“It’s making me feel much more confident as a president-elect for CCCSFAAA,” Glashan said. “I’m learning so much of what my responsibilities are and what I have to look forward to in the next few years.”

Megan Kennerknecht, a senior financial aid counselor at SUNY Geneseo, said she has valued “getting a very specific perspective on enrollment management and hearing what other schools are doing.”

“[I have] a better idea of how to go back to my campus and do what we need to do,” Kennerknecht said. “We’re in the middle of a big culture shift, so being able to articulate in the right words exactly what our campus should be doing is definitely what I’ve already started getting.”

To prepare conference attendees for their Capitol Hill visits, and to arm them with information about what policy changes might be coming down the road, NASFAA President Justin Draeger and Megan McClean Coval, NASFAA’s vice president of policy and federal relations, brought members up to date during their “Washington Update” session.

Draeger said that while it’s unclear what form student aid changes might take – whether they come as part of a tax reform bill or through reauthorization of the Higher Education Act – student aid will be “on the horizon” within the next year or two. It’s also unclear who will take the lead with changes to higher education policy. Under the Obama administration, higher education was largely championed directly from the White House, but with the new administration signaling a need to rein in the role of the federal government, more power could be going back to Congress, Draeger said.

Funding for higher education – and specifically federal student aid programs – is also an open question, Coval said. However, Coval added that financial aid professionals should anticipate “devastating cuts” for discretionary spending with the return of sequestration.

“That essentially means all the money in our bucket is being reduced yet again,” Coval said. “We have to do more with less funds.”

Draeger also detailed NASFAA’s priorities for a Higher Education Act reauthorization bill, including FAFSA simplification, streamlining loan repayment options, and supporting funding for the Pell Grant program.

“Whether there’s a reauthorization in a year or two years, or whether something moves on the budget we don’t know,” Draeger said. “What we do know is student aid will potentially be in play in the next year or two.”


Publication Date: 2/28/2017

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