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NASFAA 2023 Highlight: FAFSA Simplification and Public Policy Questions and Concerns

By Maria Carrasco, NASFAA Staff Reporter

Aid administrators from across the country gathered to discuss and learn more about  FAFSA simplification and other issues in the profession at NASFAA’s National Conference in San Diego. 

During the conference, attendees were able to attend three open forums — two on FAFSA simplification and one on public policy. Across those sessions, NASFAA members raised a number of questions and concerns related to FAFSA simplification, the future of the profession, administrative burden, and more. Read on for a summary of what was discussed. 

The Future of the Profession

Several members raised concerns around the financial aid profession, and more specifically, with difficulties around hiring students in the aid office — a common pathway to a career in financial aid administration. NASFAA’s 2022-23 National Chair Brad Barnett said this is an issue the NASFAA Board of Directors is aware of and working on, and noted that the traditional pipeline of working in financial aid has changed — meaning that not as many work-study and graduate students who already work in aid office are joining the profession. He also pointed to the Advancing the Profession Toolkit, created by a NASFAA task force. 

“At our board meeting just prior to this conference, we had another extended conversation about how we work toward making sure that people understand financial aid is a viable place to work past just work-study students,” Barnett said. “As a board and as an association, we're going to be looking at how we can get more engaged in promoting financial aid as a profession outside of the normal agenda.”

Administrative Burden and Capability
Another concern attendees brought up was administrative burden and aid offices’ capabilities, including issues with the Department of Education’s (ED) proposed reporting process for student-level Federal-Work Study (FWS) earnings. Last week, NASFAA released its draft comments on the topic, and is encouraging institutions to submit their own comments by July 12, 2023. 

NASFAA President and CEO Justin Draeger said that aside from the statutory changes to the FWS reporting process, the additional information collection is “unrealistic” to aid offices, and some aid offices will struggle to meet the new reporting requirement. 

Removal of Housing Question on 2024-25 FAFSA

Attendees also brought up concerns about the removal of the housing plans question from the 2024-25 FAFSA. Barnett clarified that the removal of the housing question is due to ED’s interpretation of the FAFSA Simplification Act, and that NASFAA is advocating to get the question added back to the FAFSA in future years. 

“[The housing question] is not going to be on there for 2024-25,” Barnett said. “So you need to make sure you've figured out a way around that question. With that said, we are continuously continuing our advocacy work to get it added back”

Barnett shared how his institution, James Madison University, is working around the removal of the question. He said for returning students, the aid office is going to look at the housing selection for each student’s 2023-24 FAFSA. For first-year students, all are required to live on campus, though students are able to apply for an exemption. He noted that his office is coordinating with the residence life office to be notified when a first-year student opts to live off campus. 

As for returning students without a 2023-24 FAFSA, Barnett said that they’re going to assume those students are living off campus. On NASFAA’s “Off the Cuff” podcast, David Tolman, NASFAA’s instructional design and content specialist, discussed how institutions can work through the packaging process with the removal of the housing question. 

Removal of Number in College and Professional Judgment

There were also concerns and questions about how to conduct a professional judgment (PJ) review on the number of students a family has in college, since number in college is not a part of the new Student Aid Index (SAI) formula under the 2024-25 FAFSA. 

Rachelle Feldman, vice provost of enrollment at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and member of NASFAA’S FAFSA Simplification Implementation Working Group, encouraged attendees to run NASFAA’s SAI modeling tool on their current population of students to get a better understanding of the formula.

“I could tell you there are families that go from having multiple in college to not who lose [Pell Grant] eligibility,” Feldman said. “And there are families who go from having multiple in college to not who gain eligibility because of other pieces of the formula that change. So I would just say look at your population and be thoughtful.”

As accounting for multiple students in college using PJ, it would have to be based on special circumstances and be considered on a case-by-case basis using the aid office’s policies and procedures, Feldman said. Using PJ, an aid administrator could make reasonable adjustments to the family’s adjusted gross income or cost of attendance to account for the number in college. 

FSA ID Requirements

There were also multiple concerns about how parents with no Social Security number would be able to create their FSA ID, which is required to complete their portion of the 2024-25 FAFSA. Karen McCarthy, NASFAA’s vice president of public policy and federal relations, clarified that the process for undocumented parents to create their FSA ID has not been finalized by ED. However, students and contributors with a Social Security number may create their FSA ID at any time. 

Melanie Storey, director of policy, implementation, and oversight at ED, also noted in a general session that there are provisions in FAFSA simplification for students who can't access their parents' information, including those with undocumented parents who have fears about submitting their information.

Child Support

Finally, a key question and concern asked multiplied times throughout the NASFAA National Conference was around how child support payments would factor into determining which parent provided the most financial support to the applicant for purposes of determining which parent’s information to provide on the FAFSA in cases of parental divorce or separation. 

Storey later addressed this question at the conference’s closing session, saying ED is working on a definite answer. The answer, along with several examples, will be given in a Federal Student Aid (FSA) webinar on July 13, she said. 

Read through our conference coverage to catch up on sessions you may have missed.


Publication Date: 7/7/2023

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