NASFAA's Altitude: Thoughts on Living Expenses, a 4-Day Work Week, Losing Faith in Government Programs, and More

By Justin Draeger, NASFAA President and CEO

Welcome to NASFAA's "Altitude" a new-ish Today's News series that aims to provide a 30,000-foot view on the intersections of economics, public policy, management, and student financial aid. Look for an assortment of links, reactions, conversations, and other missives from NASFAA President Justin Draeger and others. It may be easier to say what this series isn't: a place to find answers to tough regulatory and implementation questions. We'll be trying out this series over the next few months, so please send us your comments and follow us on Twitter

What I've been reading this last week: 

1. Reddit Asks: What do you wish wasn't so expensive?
The top answer may surprise you.  What's missing from the top 10? Higher education and/or college tuition. 

2. Turning Lemons Into Student Aid Donations
An errant tweet from Temple last month reminds us of how on rare occasions, social media can be benevolent, and a mistake can be turned into donations to fund student aid.

3. The Negative Impact of Losing Faith in America
Bill Gates worries about the loss of trust people have in the government's ability to get things done. "If your people don't trust you, they're not going to support major new initiatives. And when a major crisis emerges, they're less likely to follow guidance necessary to weather the storm," Gates writes on his personal blog. He goes on to predict that the end of the pandemic is in sight. 

Why It Matters: President Joe Biden has one of the most ambitious social policy agendas of any recent president in modern history. But his ability to push his ideas through Congress — or sell them to the American people — has been a rough go. Maybe there's just too much doubt and cynicism that Washington can deliver on the promises it makes, even if Congress passes legislation, can federal agencies deliver? (I've heard this concern from financial aid administrators concerned about changes in federal methodology and FAFSA simplification.) 

4. Three Lessons From White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, via Her Profile in Vogue 

Lesson 1: You know you've made it when big names start taking shots at you. "When Russia began a smear campaign against Psaki personally, she was told by Russian correspondents: "This is a badge of honor. This is telling you that your message is getting through, and they need to discredit you to their public." 

Lesson 2: Eliminating jargon helps make you relatable and better understood. "Psaki explains, the president is focused on eliminating bureaucratic jargon that might confuse or alienate the public. She recalls briefing him on COVID-relief checks. 'He said, 'How are you explaining how people are going to get these checks if they don't file taxes?' I said, 'Well, if you are a non-filer—' " Biden interrupted her. "He's like, 'Non-filer? Nobody knows what that is. That's not how anybody speaks.'"

Lesson 3: "Wrestling with alligators" is part of any job, but results speak louder than words. "Psaki says the administration thinks it can make inroads not by 'wrestling with alligators — or former alligators, or the people around them — but by delivering results.' She goes on, 'That's what we're betting on. We'll see if we're right.'" 

5. Has the Four-Day Workweek Finally Arrived for Higher Ed?
D'Youville College in Buffalo, New York generated huge waves of envy when it announced that it would reduce its workweek down to 32 hours per week, without any reduction in pay or benefits. 

Another Way to Look At It: Everyone on campus just received a pay increase since they're doing less work at the same pay. 

Why? Talent acquisition and employee retention, says D'Youville President Lorrie Clemo.  

How It's Possible: Committing to learn and use new technology. (Which raises the question: if you have a significant number of staff that scoff at new technology, is a four-day workweek achievable?) 

Is it Possible? Since salaries for employees aren't paid based on the hours they work, time will tell whether this is a promise that can't be delivered, akin to the "unlimited vacation" offered by tech companies that often generated more questions than actual benefits. Here's hoping! 

Between the Lines: A lot of eyes will be watching D'Youville to see if this works over the next year, and if so, I would expect this to be a hot topic at higher education conferences thereafter.


Publication Date: 1/12/2022

Ben R | 1/13/2022 12:8:24 PM

Could the "Cost of college" be low on the list because no borrower has had to pay for the last 20 months and many were not paying even before that?

Joseph S | 1/12/2022 1:7:14 PM

Anyone who has worked for years knows that one can do in a four day week what one does in a five week period, assuming increased hours in the four day week; however with certain variables. first and foremost in the case of colleges and financial aid offices, service is the key. Can an office do it all for students living on campus and providing the services that are needed? Can increased working at home be monitored in such a way that work is being produced and not lessened. Yes, we must think out of the box for the "new" normal, but we must be on guard for not providing the services that are needed the current high cost of a collegiate education.

Joel T | 1/12/2022 11:35:33 AM

"President Joe Biden has one of the most ambitious social policy agendas of any recent president in modern history. But his ability to push his ideas through Congress — or sell them to the American people — has been a rough go."

Has there been any consideration that over half of the country does not like his "ambitious social policy" initiatives? Perhaps the citizenry heard the sales pitch, read the details, and decided that they are unwarranted and, in some cases, would actually make things worse. This would be the reason why almost all of his policy initiatives are receiving push-back - even from within his own party. Only 42.8% of the country believes that the Biden administration is doing a good job, and 63.1% says the country is going in the wrong direction. The problem is not the sales pitch; it is the actual policies and legislation they're putting forward.

I keep saying this, but NASFAA should be apolitical and should not be cheering or jeering any administration. The goal should be to advocate for policies and practices that best serve students and the higher education community. As of right now, it seems like NASFAA is clearly one-sided and that can be hard to defend when administrators inquire about paying hefty membership fees to be a member of a blatantly partisan organization.

Rob W | 1/12/2022 9:42:13 AM

Long ago, in a state not very far away, I had the opportunity to work 4 days a week at a branch campus of a small community college. I absolutely loved it. It is amazing how easy it is to get used to working four ten-hour days (knowing you have a three day weekend waiting for you at the end of EVERY week certainly helps). While such a schedule may not work for everyone, especially employees with children of a certain age, I can't help but think that the vast majority of FAA's would jump at such an opportunity. Much like the ability to work from home at least part of the time, being able to offer such a schedule would certainly give a school a competitive hiring advantage--and I truly believe could be done without negatively impacting service to our students. As schools struggle to attract and retain good employees, this kind of "outside the box" thinking can only help.

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