Ask Mr. Ethics: What Is the "De Minimus" Dollar Amount a Financial Aid Professional Can Receive From a Vendor?


The following was reviewed for accuracy and updated on 7/29/2021.



Dear Mr. Ethics, 

What is the "de minimus" dollar amount a financial aid professional can receive legally as a gift or benefit from a vendor? I’m updating our school’s policies and procedures document, and I do not see an exact amount published in your Code of Conduct. I want to state the amount so my staff remain in compliance with NASFAA’s Code.


Gifts That Keep On Giving




NASFAA’s Code of Conduct says “NASFAA institutional members will ensure that: No amount of cash, gift, or benefit in excess of a de minimis amount shall be accepted by a financial aid staff member from any financial aid applicant (or his/her family), or from any entity doing business with or seeking to do business with the institution (including service on advisory committees or boards beyond reimbursement for reasonable expenses directly associated with such service).”  

You are correct in observing that the Code omits the defined amounts for “de minimis;” this omission is intentional, as this amount might change over time.

There’s a long history here, dating back to NASFAA’s 2007 agreement with then-New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo - and you can read more detail about that time in “A Shifting Landscape: NASFAA’s 2006-2011 History.” 

When the existing NASFAA Code of Conduct was first instituted, the de minimis amounts communicated to  vendors set those allowable amounts at the very low sum of $10 to conform with NASFAA’s 2007 agreement with the New York Attorney General. 

In 2019, NASFAA conducted benchmarking research with the IRS and among members of NASFAA’s peer professional associations, to determine industry norms in regard to acceptable de minimis amounts. We conducted this research with an eye toward providing opportunities for vendors and service providers to connect with institutional members outside of the exhibit hall, but with limitations. 

Following significant research and discussion, NASFAA’s Ethics Commission (and subsequently the Board of Directors) in September 2019 approved an update to the permissible first amounts to $20 for gifts and $60 for meals/receptions. These new amounts have been communicated to NASFAA’s vendors and sponsors. It is worth noting that some schools may have institution-wide policies, not to mention state laws, that are more restrictive than these amounts. These amounts are only in regards to NASFAA’s Code of Conduct. 

Are you working through a common ethical question and want some help? Email Mr. Ethics at [email protected] with your inquiry and check out prior Mr. Ethics columns for answers to other tricky questions.


Publication Date: 9/16/2021

Marcus W | 9/16/2021 12:40:36 PM

This article references the NYAG and some of the changes that he brought about. I am curious to know how the funds collected by his office from lenders and servicers were used and the impact they had on borrowers and borrowing.

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