NASFAA Mention: Education Dept. Is Making It Harder For Colleges To Boost Student Aid During Crisis

"The U.S. Department of Education is making it harder for colleges to reconsider — and potentially increase — financial aid for students who have lost jobs or family income in the current economic crisis," NPR reports.

"The department has shelved guidance that once encouraged colleges to do more to help students affected by a downturn. The guidance, a pair of letters published by the Obama administration in April and May of 2009, was written in response to the Great Recession. It allowed colleges to fast-track reconsideration of financial aid for students who had lost jobs, and encouraged unemployed Americans to consider enrolling in postsecondary education and applying for aid.

Perhaps most importantly, though, the 2009 guidance reassured schools that they would not be punished for helping students. Prior to that guidance, reconsidering financial aid packages for too many students could have triggered an investigation from the U.S. Department of Education, to make sure schools weren't misusing funds. These reviews were labor-intensive and could lead to costly fines. As a result, schools often avoided these aid reconsiderations.

The 2009 guidance essentially told colleges: Don't worry. These are hard times. Help students.

As the Great Recession wound down, though, the guidance and its importance to campus aid offices faded — until March, when the U.S. economy again began reeling. Almost immediately, college financial aid administrators began asking if the 2009 guidance was still active, says Justin Draeger, president of the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators.

... 'This has real impact for aid offices on campuses across the country trying to help students work through a very complicated process and get their financial aid,' Draeger says.

His organization has sent a warning to campus aid administrators: 'This is a change in ED guidance,' NASFAA recently told its members; the 2009 letters 'no longer apply.'

'I think financial aid offices are out there doing their best,' says Rachelle Feldman, associate provost of scholarships and student aid at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. 'But the fear of audit, the change in guidance — it's all very real and paralyzing.'"

NASFAA's "Notable Headlines" section highlights media coverage of financial aid to help members stay up to date with the latest news. Articles included under the notable headlines section are not written by NASFAA, but rather by external sources. Inclusion in Today's News does not imply endorsement of the material or guarantee the accuracy of information presented.


Publication Date: 6/19/2020

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