Earlier this month, NASFAA members from Pennsylvania and North Carolina institutions traveled to Washington, D.C. to meet with congressional staff members on Capitol Hill to discuss pressing issues in student financial aid. Topics of discussion included resources for homeless students, investment in campus-based programs, support for emergency grants, and relief for administrative burden. They met with staff members from four congressional offices of senators and representatives from their respective states. We asked the pipeline participants to share their thoughts and takeaways. Read on to learn about their experiences.
Tori Nuccio, interim associate director of financial aid at West Chester University
I originally was intimidated by the invitation to go up to the Hill, but quickly learned that NASFAA goes above and beyond to ensure its members are well-supported, informed, and accommodated during this experience. During our visit, we had the chance to meet with staff from both the Senate and House from both parties. Our meetings went well and I appreciated that most of the staffers did seem interested in what we had to say, and a couple even had questions of their own for us to consider. For the most part, I feel our comments and arguments were well received and I plan to follow up via email with each of the staffers.
With all of that said, though I did truly appreciate what I learned during our Hill visit, I enjoyed my time learning from my partner for the day, Joey Trogdon. Joey and I come from different sized schools, offering different types of aid programs, within very different regions of our nation. Therefore, it was nice to learn that we had similar concerns about financial aid overall, even though our student population looks very different on paper.
I would encourage all members to sign up for this opportunity — not only because it is a great opportunity to learn more about the ins and outs of policymaking and what goes on within our representatives’ offices, but also I think it is important for more members from different areas of our nation to come together and provide their different perspectives. A little collaboration goes a long way in forming solutions to our policy issues.
Joey Trogdon, director of financial aid and veterans affairs at Randolph Community College
Being part of NASFAA’s Advocacy Pipeline was a wonderful experience and I am very appreciative for the opportunity to advocate for financial aid and access to higher education. While some of the meetings were brief, I found the staffers that we met with were very engaged and one even asked for our feedback about specific legislation.
As we spoke about administrative burden, our objective was to convey that our goal is to always follow the rules, and that we are not trying to shrink from any task. However, we wanted to note that late guidance or confusing regulations make it challenging to maintain compliance and meet the goals of the Department of Education.
One example we cited was the upcoming Annual Student Loan Acknowledgement and how it was just now being rolled out this year, after we have already started awarding students for the upcoming fall. Another was the fact that Return to Title IV (R2T4) regulations are overly complex — specifically when working with modules — and have been consistently in the “Top 10 Compliance Findings” presentation at the Federal Student Aid (FSA) Training Conference for more than 10 years.
Our message for these topics was simple: please follow the master calendar for the academic year so we can have time to properly implement guidance, and please review overly complex regulations that are consistently found to be ripe with issues and try to remove or revise them.
I hope that others will take advantage of any opportunities they have to advocate for our students and our profession.
Publication Date: 3/5/2020