NASFAA continued to adapt in a world upended by the coronavirus pandemic in its policy, research, and advocacy efforts in 2021. By continuing to hold virtual events, such as the Advocacy Pipeline with Capitol Hill staffers, the policy and federal relations team made strides in influencing key policy decisions regarding college access, affordability, simplification, transparency, and federal aid for higher education institutions and students amid the pandemic. NASFAA engaged in several advocacy, grant-funded, and public policy undertakings to support its mission of promoting programs that remove financial barriers and ensure student access to postsecondary education.
NASFAA hosted five virtual Advocacy Pipeline events with Capitol Hill staffers, enabling financial aid administrators from across the country to make their voices heard despite the challenges brought by the pandemic. NASFAA also hosted a number of timely webinars highlighting COVID-19 related topics such as administrative waivers and flexibilities, distribution of emergency aid grants to students, and use of COVID relief funding for institutions. Additionally, NASFAA worked to further analyze the impact of FAFSA verification on students in an effort to reduce the burden and improve aid delivery and published an updated salary brief as part of our regular benchmarking surveys.
Read on for a comprehensive list of other actions NASFAA and its members took in 2021.
With three federal packages aimed at providing higher education institutions and students relief amid the pandemic, NASFAA’s COVID-19 Web Center was continuously updated to keep members and the financial aid community up to speed on important news related to the pandemic to reflect the latest policy updates from Congress and the Department of Education (ED).
ED guidance on the use of Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF) allocations changed throughout the year as new funds were set aside for HEERF. While first created in 2020, this reference page was updated regularly to assist financial aid administrators and other offices on college campuses in making decisions about the distribution of these funds, with additional federal stimulus packages in 2021 funneling more money to HEERF.
Advocacy Activities and Materials
Double Pell Campaign
NASFAA, along with the other members of the Double Pell Alliance — a coalition of higher education associations, organizations, and advocacy groups — launched a national campaign to double the maximum annual Pell Grant to $13,000. DoublePell.org, which NASFAA helps maintain along with other members of the alliance, is a one-stop advocacy shop for institutions, students, and other stakeholders where they can learn more about the campaign and the importance of doubling Pell.
NASFAA continued its Advocacy Pipeline efforts amid the ongoing pandemic, hosting five separate events for financial aid directors to connect with lawmakers and their staff to discuss how COVID-19 has impacted operations and highlight the importance of federal relief to provide students with emergency aid grants.
The State Advocacy Toolkit now includes a “Getting Started Presentation,” including useful tools and resources to help members successfully advocate and communicate with lawmakers at the state level on important financial aid and higher education legislative priorities.
The Implicit Bias Toolkit was created to outline steps individuals can take to address the negative impact of implicit bias when it comes to financial aid and interactions with students and families. These steps include self-awareness, and identifying areas in our lives where implicit biases may affect decision making, behaviors, and judgments.
NASFAA advocated on behalf of the financial aid community on several major pieces of legislation over the past year, including on the administration's Build Back Better agenda, the 2022 appropriations bill to advocate on behalf of student financial aid administrators for healthy funding for the federal student aid programs, and to include key technical corrections to the Isakson-Roe student veterans legislation.
NASFAA compiled a report outlining the top five student financial aid policies that are needed to sustain and strengthen higher education, ranging from strengthening the federal Pell Grant program to simplifying the application and repayment processes holistically.
In September 2021, NASFAA published the most recent update to its recommendations to modernize the HEA to meet the needs of today's students and institutions. These refreshed recommendations reflect the ever-changing postsecondary landscape, and provide an overview of NASFAA's top HEA policy priorities.
Grant & Research Initiatives
We joined with the National College Attainment Network (NCAN) to survey financial aid administrators and college access and success advisers on the impact of verification on their students and their work within the landscape of verification relief and scrutiny. The resulting paper offers recommendations to decrease the burden verification places on students and financial aid administrators alike.
We collaborated with NASPA — Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education and MDRC to publish a report shedding light on what worked well — and what didn't — for postsecondary students and institutions in the rollout and implementation of the CARES Act's HEERF.
From our surveys on financial aid administrators and offices, NASFAA produces a biannual benchmarking report on the earnings of individuals with similar characteristics and roles, and creates its Staffing Model, which demonstrates how offices with similar characteristics are staffed. Due to the onset of COVID-19, NASFAA made the decision not to administer the survey used to update its Benchmarking Report containing information on salaries, staffing, and financial aid campus relations in 2020. Instead, NASFAA worked with the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources (CUPA-HR) to produce a brief with updated financial aid-related salary information for publication in 2021. NASFAA will resume data collection for, and publication of, its biannual benchmarking report in 2022.
NASFAA surveyed members about how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the number of professional judgment requests their office will, or has already, received related to expected family contribution (EFC) and cost of attendance (COA), and what tools/resources would be helpful in managing such requests.
Pell Restoration Working Group
NASFAA convened a Pell Restoration for Incarcerated Students Working Group to examine the challenges, both existing and future, that incarcerated students may face throughout the FAFSA completion and aid application processes once Pell Grant eligibility is fully restored. A report from the working group is forthcoming in 2022.
NASFAA On the Record
September 24, 2021 - NASFAA joined a group of higher education associations in submitting two community letters, one to the chair and ranking member of the Senate Committee on Finance and another to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and the House minority leader, urging them to repeal the taxability of Pell Grants in the fiscal year 2022 reconciliation process.
September 21, 2021 - NASFAA joined other higher education organizations in a letter to congressional leadership urging for increased access to SNAP benefits for college students by passing the EATS Act or Student Food Security Act.
July 20, 2021 - NASFAA signed on to a letter with several other higher education associations to alert Congress to serious concerns about a new veterans benefits law that has implications for institutions of higher education.
April 19, 2021 - NASFAA joined other higher education organizations in a letter to congressional leadership urging for the elimination of costly origination fees on federal student loans disbursed on or after March 27, 2020.
March 23, 2021 - In a letter sent to Sens. Richard Burr (R-NC) and Angus King (I-ME), NASFAA expressed its support for their Repay Act 2021, which would streamline the federal student loan repayment process for borrowers.
March 2, 2021 - NASFAA joined other higher education organizations in a letter to Senate leadership, expressing support for the reconciliation package, which would provide nearly $40 billion in coronavirus relief aid for higher education.
February 23, 2021 - NASFAA joined dozens of other higher education groups in a letter in support of the Dream Act of 2021, a recently reintroduced piece of bipartisan legislation that would, among other things, provide a pathway to citizenship for DACA recipients.
Comments to ED
December 8, 2021 - In a letter to ED Undersecretary James Kvaal this week, NASFAA asked the department to consider making the Annual Student Loan Acknowledgement (ASLA) available to institutions for voluntary adoption.
November 30, 2021 - NASFAA joined a number of other higher education organizations in comments on the Department of Homeland Security's Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for the DACA program.
November 23, 2021 - In a letter to Richard Cordray, the chief operating officer at the Office of Federal Student Aid (FSA), NASFAA raised concerns about repeated and increasing reports of technological challenges that are impacting the FAFSA filing process for students.
November 17, 2021 - NASFAA has joined a group of higher education stakeholders in urging Education Secretary Miguel Cardona to provide more concrete details concerning the department’s efforts to seamlessly transition student loan borrowers back into repayment.
November 3, 2021 - NASFAA submitted comments to ED on Student Assistance General Provisions — Non-Title IV Revenue Requirements (90/10) in response to its recent notice announcing upcoming negotiated rulemaking on this topic.
September 24, 2021 - In this letter response to a recent request for information from ED, NASFAA shared results of a recent survey of financial aid administrators who found Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) outreach, publicity, and communication to be inadequate.
September 7, 2021 - Written on behalf of NASFAA and NCAN, this letter expresses disappointment in ED’s failure to extend, for the 2022-23 award year, the verification waivers granted in GEN-21-05 for the 2021-22 award year.
August 23, 2021 - NASFAA and NACUBO submitted joint comments to ED on its proposed revision to the HEERF annual data collection form.
August 23, 2021 - NASFAA joined ACE and several other higher education associations in a letter to ED this week on its proposed revision to the HEERF annual data collection form.
July 1, 2021 - This letter aimed to provide ED with additional details for the negotiated rulemaking process and focused on issues surrounding gainful employment, PSLF, prison education program, administrative capability, and other topics.
NACUBO and NASFAA Comments on FSA Sampling Request: 2021 Compliance Supplement
June 14, 2021 - NASFAA joined NACUBO in a letter to FSA Chief Operating Officer Richard Cordray regarding FSA’s proposed changes to the 2021 Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Compliance Supplement.
March 16, 2021 - NASFAA joined a handful of other higher education groups in a letter to ED detailing recommendations so borrowers are smoothly and successfully transitioned back into repayment.
March 2, 2021 - NASFAA joined a letter with NCAN urging ED and newly appointed Education Secretary Miguel Cardona expressing the importance of implementing the changes made to the FAFSA in an efficient and timely manner.
February 11, 2021 - NASFAA joins a letter to Acting Education Secretary Philip Rosenfelt requesting a meeting to clarify the obligations of colleges and universities under Section 117 of the Higher Education Act, which deals with foreign gift and contract reporting.
Publication Date: 12/21/2021