2021 Year in Review: NASFAA's Policy, Grant, and Advocacy Efforts

By Owen Daugherty, NASFAA Staff Reporter

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.

Coronavirus Coverage

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Web Center

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).

NASFAA Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF) Reference Page

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’s Advocacy Pipeline

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.

State Advocacy Toolkit

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.

Implicit Bias Toolkit 

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.

Legislation

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. 

Investing in Our Future

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. 

Higher Education Act Reauthorization

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

Reducing the Burden of Proof: FAFSA Verification and Improving Access to Federal Financial Aid

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.

An Evaluation of Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act Funding for Postsecondary Institutions

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.

NASFAA Benchmarking: Salary Update Brief

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 Member Survey on Professional Judgement

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

Letters

NASFAA Joins Community Letters to Congressional Leaders Urging Repeal of Taxability of Pell Grant in Reconciliation 

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.

NASFAA Signs Onto Letter Supporting Extending SNAP Eligibility to Pell Recipients

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.

NASFAA Joins ACE in Urging Changes to Veterans Law Affecting Institutions August 1

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.

NASFAA Signs Onto Community Letter to Eliminate Origination Fees

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.

NASFAA Repay Act Letter of Support 2021

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.

NASFAA Joins in Letter of Support for Budget Reconciliation

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.

NASFAA Urges Congress to Pass Dream Act Offering DACA Recipients Pathway to Citizenship

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

NASFAA Urges ED to Not Require Annual Student Loan Acknowledgment for All Schools

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.

NASFAA Submits Comments on DACA Notice of Proposed Rulemaking

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.

NASFAA Joins Higher Ed Organizations in Letter to FSA on FAFSA Technical Issues

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.

NASFAA Joins Higher Ed Stakeholders in Letter to ED on Resumption of Student Loan Repayment

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.

NASFAA Submits Comments to Negotiated Rulemaking Committee on 90/10 Rule

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.

NASFAA Submits Comments to ED on PSLF Program

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.

Verification Letter to Department of Education

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.

NASFAA Submits Comments on Revised HEERF Annual Data Collection Form

August 23, 2021 - NASFAA and NACUBO submitted joint comments to ED on its proposed revision to the HEERF annual data collection form.

NASFAA Joins ACE in Submitting HEERF Annual Reporting Comments

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.

Negotiated Rulemaking Written Comments

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.

NASFAA Joins Effort Providing Recommendations for Transitioning Millions of Borrowers Back Into Repayment

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.

NASFAA, NCAN Urge ED to Implement Changes to FAFSA Swiftly

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.

Request for Meeting on Section 117 Reporting Requirements

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


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