When thousands of students found themselves in an educational and financial crisis after Corinthian Colleges abruptly closed its doors in 2015, NASFAA joined a coalition with several other groups to assist students. NASFAA members volunteered their time to help these students determine their eligibility for federal loan discharge and navigate the process of applying for forgiveness. Since then, NASFAA has helped thousands of students and was recognized last week by the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE): Center for Association Leadership for its continued efforts to help this population.
ASAE is the essential organization for association management, representing both organizations and individual association professionals. It awarded NASFAA with a 2018 Power of A Award, which is the highest recognition an association can receive for any program they conduct with their members.
“Winning this award is truly a testament to the hard work and dedication of NASFAA members,” NASFAA President Justin Draeger said. “Financial aid administrators are often overworked and overtired, but they more than answered the call to donate their time to help these students whose educational plans, work, and lives had been seriously disrupted. Because of these individuals, displaced students all over the country are one step closer to achieving their educational and career goals.”
While NASFAA does not typically work directly with students, it became apparent that there was a knowledge gap that NASFAA members were uniquely qualified to fill. Despite some guidance from the Department of Education (ED), there was a lack of information and resources available for displaced students related to applying for a closed-school federal loan discharge and borrower defense to repayment. NASFAA collaborated with the California Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (CASFAA), the Western Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (WASFAA), and two other outside organizations—Beyond 12 and California State University, Fullerton—to help. Together with these entities, NASFAA created an online ticketing portal — NextStepsEd.org — where students can request help with issues involving financial aid.
NASFAA received a grant to continue this work through December 2018 and, with the help of more than 130 NASFAA members who volunteered to serve on NASFAA’s Assisting Displaced Students Working Group, has been able to assist nearly 5,300 students through the online portal since the project’s inception.
“I had heard all the stories about how now-closed schools were taking advantage of students but working with those students first-hand was an unfamiliar perspective altogether,” said volunteer Jesse McMillan, the assistant director of financial aid at Capital University in Ohio. “A few students that I responded to were reluctant to trust me and the information I was giving them regarding the process to which they were inquiring, whether that be closed school discharge, borrower defense to repayment, etc. ...For me, a rewarding part of this experience has been to work with those students and show them that we are here to help them, to guide them and that we genuinely care about them and their financial and educational futures.”
Volunteer Leslie Hammes, the associate director of student financial aid services at the University of Idaho, said that “providing personalized guidance for these students is a public good” because “discouraged students are able to continue the pursuit of their dreams benefitting their family, their community, and the country.”
“It’s immensely rewarding to hear the relief when I explain options and provide the links the student will need,” she said. “Although we can’t help everyone, we can and do ensure everyone has access to straightforward information about [federal] loan discharge, Pell reinstatement, and [federal] loan forgiveness.”
Volunteer Aesha Engeldinger, the assistant director of compliance in the financial aid office at the Illinois Institute of Technology, said serving on the committee has been “fulfilling in several ways.”
“I'm incredibly thankful to have had the opportunity to help students who are feeling disenfranchised and taken advantage of in a way that might restore to them a bit of hope, and a path forward,” she said.
In addition to hosting the online portal, NASFAA has used the grant funding it received to take steps to help future displaced students. Last fall NASFAA’s policy team produced a recommendations paper to aid policymakers in crafting regulations that better protect federal student loan borrowers whose schools close and, as the project nears its end, NASFAA has been conducting consumer testing to evaluate the trustworthiness, understandability, usability, and inclusiveness of information that it intends to include on a forthcoming knowledge base website. The the new website will remain up after the project has concluded to provide students with resources and guidance once the ticketing portal permanently closes in December 2018.
Publication Date: 6/18/2018