As part of May’s Advocacy Pipeline, NASFAA hosted three members in Washington, D.C. for meetings on Capitol Hill. The participants — Laura Biechler from Bridgewater State University, Amy Staffier from Simmons University, and Daisha Holmes from Johnson County Community College — spoke to congressional staffers from Massachusetts and Kansas.
NASFAA members engaged in five in-person meetings with the offices of Sens.Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), as well as Reps. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), Sharice Davids (D-Kan.), and Bill Keating (D-Mass.). They discussed the need to eliminate student loan origination fees, and the importance of strengthening the federal Pell Grant program. Additionally, they advocated for simplifying student loan repayment, along with reforming the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program so that students are encouraged to continue pursuing careers in public service.
We asked the three Advocacy Pipeline participants to share their thoughts and key takeaways from their time advocating for their students on Capitol Hill. Read on to learn about their experiences, and fill out this interest form if you would like to participate in an Advocacy Pipeline event.
Laura Biechler - Assistant Vice President of Student Financial Assistance and Enrollment Management at Bridgewater State University:
I have had the opportunity to participate in Hill visits a few times over the past two decades and each time, it is truly a great opportunity to speak with congressional staff to address concerns surrounding the affordability and overall support for higher education in the United States. No one goes to school to become a financial aid professional, and our days are often filled with administrative burdens that can make the individuals doing the work feel overlooked or unheard. That is why advocacy from the experts in the profession must continue to be a priority. NASFAA offers a platform that actively cultivates an environment for aid professionals to feel welcomed, heard, and valued when participating in advocacy events.
The advocacy day was very well organized and was extremely well executed. Overall, the staffers we directly engaged with were open to conversations concerning all of the topics we highlighted. Many of the staffers felt they could relate to experiences we described, which was very helpful and created engaging and genuine conversations.
Being part of the Advocacy Pipeline has assisted in my professional longevity as a financial aid professional and I am grateful for the day we spent together in Washington, D.C.
Amy Staffier - Assistant Vice President, Enrollment Student Services & Director of Financial Aid at Simmons University:
As I step back and reflect on our day on the Hill, there are two emotions that rise to the top — gratitude and hope. I am grateful for having been provided the opportunity to speak on behalf of students and my colleagues in financial aid. I am perhaps more grateful to live in a country where we are allowed to voice our concerns and advocate for needed change.
There is a wonderful quote from Edward Abbey that states, “Every important change in our society, for the good, at least, has taken place because of popular pressure — pressure from below, from the great mass of people.” That is where my hope comes from. We must always remember that we are where change builds from.
In the over 26 years that I have worked in this profession, I have lived and worked through many financial aid changes, and I have seen others in our profession be that “pressure from below.” The Advocacy Pipeline was my opportunity to highlight the experiences of my students and colleagues with congressional offices. I was joined by two financial aid colleagues who added their own passion and expertise to each conversation, and together, we brought a consistent message: change is necessary, and not just for student aid policy, but for the incredible administrative burden we as a profession are experiencing.
Whether you have worked in financial aid for one year or 26 years, you have a powerful voice that can and should be used to advocate for change.
Daisha Holmes - Financial Aid Coordinator at Johnson County Community College:
I was pleasantly surprised when I was asked to participate in NASFAA’s Advocacy Pipeline, and I am so happy that I accepted! Being new to the financial aid profession and working at a community college, I felt intimidated because I thought I didn’t have much perspective to bring to our elected officials. NASFAA staff reassured me that my perspective is valuable and gave me the confidence to be able to speak on subjects like doubling the Pell Grant and eliminating student loan origination fees with ease.
After participating in the pipeline, I am better equipped to understand financial aid hot topics and how institutions, states, and Congress work together to make change happen for students across the nation. The Advocacy Pipeline is an experience I will never forget, as I got to meet other financial aid professionals from other states and regions. We were able to bond over the thing that brings us all together — helping students, and financial aid.
I would highly recommend the NASFAA Advocacy Pipeline to anyone, but especially new financial aid professionals! It sparked inspiration in me and helped me have a deeper appreciation of what financial aid is and what it means to students.
Publication Date: 7/7/2023