NASFAA's Altitude: How Students Want to Interact With Aid Offices, the Never-Ending Loan Repayment Pause, and More

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

By Justin Draeger, NASFAA President and CEO

Here’s some of what I’ve been reading over the past week: 

Is a Federal Program for Free College Necessary? The President and First Lady’s goal of enacting a federal program to provide two years of free college has all but stalled. But the momentum continues at the state level, according to The Washington Post. More than half of all states have now either enacted, or are about to enact, some form of free community college. 

  • In Summary: Not every good idea requires a federal program, and free community college may be a prime example of how state-based policy and advocacy can be more effective than federal, where little legislation is actually passed by Congress and nearly every issue becomes politicized.  

How Do Students Want to Interact With the Aid Office? A recent Student Voice survey of 2,000 students found that of the students who have interacted with the financial aid office, email is the most popular form of interaction, followed by phone or video calls. Relatedly, most students are rating their experiences with the aid office as positive. 

  • What You Need to Know: We’ve spent a lot of time in these articles talking about the future of financial aid work — and for offices that are looking to make the case for permanent workplace flexibilities to attract and retain talent, national surveys are pointing to the fact that students can have positive experiences with the aid office asynchronously and virtually. 

Think Twice Before Issuing Any #humblebrags: New research from the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that humblebragging — when someone consciously tries to brag about themselves all while couching it in a disingenuous show of humility — is “an ineffective form of self-presentation.” In other words, the insincerity of humblebragging often backfires and doesn’t evoke sympathy or admiration, the two things humblebraggers seek to elicit.

  • What Should You Do Instead? Straightforward bragging, or complaining if you’re trying to point out that you’ve worked more than others for example, is actually more effective than an insincere humblebrag. “If you want to announce something, go with the brag and at least own your self-promotion and reap the rewards of being sincere, rather than losing in all dimensions,” says Ovul Sezer, one of the researchers and authors of the study. “Better yet … get somebody else to ‘wingman’ your boasting.” 

  • Having Trouble Identifying Humblebrags? Not to worry! There’s an entire subreddit dedicated to the topic.

Will Student Loan Payments Ever Restart? Not anytime soon, at least according to White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain. As reported in NASFAA’s Today’s News, Klain said the president is going to “look at what we should do on student debt before the pause expires, or he’ll extend the pause.” In the podcast interview, Klain touts the fact that no student has been required to pay on their loans during the entirety of the Biden administration. 

  • Watch: Taking Klain at his word, the president could release his plans for limited or widespread debt forgiveness before the currently planned repayment pause end date of May 1, and then restart repayments. However, it’s looking increasingly likely that the student loan repayment moratorium is going to be around for quite some time. 

  • Word on the Street: In addition to Klain’s remarks, Politico is reporting that student loan servicers were notified this week to hold off on sending any required notices to borrowers about their payments starting. 

  • The Pressure’s on From Student Groups: In January, more than 100 student campus leaders called on the Biden administration to abandon efforts to restart loan payments and instead cancel federal student loan debt entirely out of a concern with the drag that student loan debt exerts on people after they leave college. Loan forgiveness will also help “close the racial wealth gap and promote equity in higher education,” the student leaders wrote

Not So Fast: Former Deputy Assistant Secretary for Tax Analysis at Treasury and current Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution Adam Looney argues that widespread student loan forgiveness is regressive (i.e., unfair) no matter how it’s measured, whether by income, education, or wealth. “The best way to use federal postsecondary educational systems to close racial and socioeconomic gaps in income and wealth is through means-tested grant and loan aid … and targeted relief to borrowers who can clearly demonstrate that their loans impose a significant economic hardship,” Looney wrote. 


Publication Date: 3/14/2022

David S | 3/14/2022 12:30:23 PM

If widespread student loan forgiveness is so wrong/evil/regressive, let's focus on the word "widespread." The bogeyman held up by many who oppose forgiveness/cancelation is inevitably the wealthy recipient of a degree in law or medicine. I don't have the data in front of me, but I'm pretty sure such borrowers make up a pretty small percentage of Americans with student loans.

The Brookings Inst fellow like means-tested aid. The financial aid world is full of such things. What if we looked at student loan debt-to-income ratios, drew a line in the sand somewhere, and said "those on this side get x dollars forgiven, those on this side do not." Yes, there's a cliff effect, but financial aid is full of those already. Maybe it can even be tiered; fall far on the side of forgiveness, the x dollars canceled goes up.

We cannot keep pretending that everyone who borrowed can and should repay. Too many Americans entered a CEO-keeps-all-the-money job market that has left them unable to repay, and if they didn't finish their degree, they're that much worse off. If the argument is "well then what happens to the next round of borrowers?," let's walk and chew gum at the same time and make some really meaningful progress towards access and affordability.

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