NCAN and FSA Explore Ways to #FixFAFSA on Capitol Hill

"'You have no greater friend to FAFSA completion than me,' Dr. A. Wayne Johnson, Chief Operating Officer of the U.S. Department of Education's Federal Student Aid office, told members and others at an NCAN event on Capitol Hill today. He spoke to about 80 attendees who also came to hear about new research about how poverty impacts FAFSA completion, and a panel discussion on the impact of federal financial aid policy changes," Shelbe Klebs writes for NCAN.

"Johnson’s keynote address focused on how FAFSA completion will continue to be important and will only amplify in importance in the near future – echoing his quote in a Tuesday press release stating that FSA’s vision is that “every eligible student in the nation completes the FAFSA.” Johnson also offered his personal thoughts on financial aid and the FAFSA,  including the goals of a more straightforward form, ease of completion, and using 21st-century tools. (Watch the full remarks including a Q&A on NCAN's Facebook page.)  

NCAN hosted the event to discuss the impact of policy changes to the FAFSA. Johnson’s address preceded the release of two papers, An Analysis of the Relationship between School District Poverty and FAFSA Completion in June 2016 and June 2017 and Moving the Needle on FAFSA Completion: How Changes to Federal Financial Aid Policy Can Broaden Access to Higher Education.

Johnson has more than 30 years of experience in the financial services industry and holds a Ph.D. in higher education leadership from Mercer University. A native of Macon, GA, Johnson also has an MBA from Emory University. His experience includes working as a senior executive with TSYS, First Data, VISA, Deloitte, and as Chief Executive Officer for companies in both the banking and information processing sectors. Johnson’s research focus is in the area of student loans, with specific focus on student loan indebtedness decision-making.

Other speakers at the event discussed FAFSA completion rates in the context of district-level poverty rates documented in NCAN’s new paper. The report finds that in most states, districts with higher rates of poverty have lower FAFSA completion rates. However, higher poverty is associated with slightly higher FAFSA completion rates in six states, such as Tennessee and Oregon. Additionally, FAFSA filing increased from June 2016 to June 2017 in every state by an average of 4 percent across all poverty levels. These positive changes in filing are likely attributable to the FAFSA becoming available to prospective students three months earlier, as well as allowing students and families to rely on prior-prior year tax information."

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Publication Date: 10/12/2017

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