On the final day of Financial Aid Awareness Month, hundreds of financial aid professionals in Washington, D.C. for NASFAA's 2018 Leadership & Legislative Conference & Expo took to Capitol Hill to meet with representatives from across the country to discuss the importance of federal student aid, advocate for students, and push for policy changes in the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA) that will improve college access and affordability.
While NASFAA regularly brings financial aid professionals to the nation's capital to meet with lawmakers through the Advocacy Pipeline, it's a rare opportunity for hundreds to make these visits in one day. During their meetings, members primarily spoke with lawmakers and their staff members about the Promoting Real Opportunity, Success and Prosperity Through Education Reform (PROSPER) Act, a bill from House Republicans to reauthorize the HEA. NASFAA members emphasized that while the bill includes promising ideas like cutting origination fees and codifying the year-round Pell Grant, it would hinder students' access to higher education by eliminating programs such as the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG), Public Student Loan Forgiveness (PSLF), and other income-driven loan forgiveness programs.
David Peterson, assistant vice provost of enrollment management and student financial aid at the University of Cincinnati, said the visits were a "great opportunity for those of us in the profession to get out and get to know our legislators in their environment."
"I think it's important for us to go to them," he said. "We really need to be more proactive with things. Higher education policy doesn't happen in a vacuum. It's fast-paced. It's coming at us from all different sides, and we've got to be actively engaged."
Peterson also noted that because the hundreds of members of Congress have varying backgrounds, some might be less engaged in education issues, and visiting with them presents an opportunity to educate them about the importance of financial aid.
"It gives you perspective on what's going through the [lawmaker's] mind as they're looking through these proposals," Peterson said. "Some might have a very different view of what we do. If we don't enlighten and educate them on what we do, that view is going to continue."
Publication Date: 3/1/2018