Director of Student Financial Aid at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Dan Mann, the newly-initiated 2015-16 NASFAA National Chair, closed this year’s conference with a call to action.
Newly-initiated 2015-16 NASFAA
“I have an overarching goal that the association will be even stronger when I pass the gavel to [National Chair-Elect] Lisa Blazer next year in Washington, D.C.,” Mann told attendees. “As we move forward, we must continue to think big, considering both the immediate and future needs of our financial aid programs.”
Mann said volunteers are “the lifeblood” of any organization, and commended NASFAA members who have volunteered during the past year on task forces and in other capacities – 125 of whom volunteered for the first time.
Still, Mann said, there will be many issues in the next year to keep NASFAA on its toes.
“In the months ahead, we anticipate that college cost and higher education funding will emerge as campaign issues, and candidates will offer new ideas about how to address these issues,” Mann said. “NASFAA stays ready to evaluate those ideas and when needed, there will be policy groups or working task forces to address emerging issues.”
In the next year, Mann said NASFAA’s main goal is to look for ways to strengthen the financial aid profession, as both financial aid offices and policy positions are being scrutinized more closely.
“Our profession is stronger through the involvement and engagement of you, our members,” Mann said. “It is with your help that we remain strong.”
Jeff Baker and Lynn Mahaffie of the Department of Education’s (ED) Office of Federal Student Aid also delivered an update on federal student aid policy.
Lynn Mahaffie of the Department of
Mahaffie explained how initiatives around the ideas of access, affordability and outcomes work together to move toward the president’s 2020 goal – to have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.
With the express purpose of increasing affordability, Mahaffie said the administration has put forth proposals such as America’s College Promise – to make the first two years of community college free for some students – increasing Pell Grant funding, and encouraging innovation through the First in the World grant program. On the back end, to increase affordability when students are repaying loans, Mahaffie touted the administration’s Student Aid Bill of Rights and changes to federal income-based repayment plans, such as the expansion of Pay As You Earn.
Mahaffie also explained ED's decision in backing away from its proposed postsecondary institutions ratings system.
“We realized it’s exceedingly difficult to find one set of metrics that could measure all colleges, given the diversity of our higher education system,” Mahaffie said, as the audience applauded. “Instead... we are planning to release new easy-to-use tools with more data in a very user-friendly format to help students and their families rate the colleges that are best for them, rather than having us do that.”
Current regulatory efforts Mahaffie detailed included cash management – proposed regulations that suggest tougher standards and more transparency around college-company agreements for prepaid or debit cards – and teacher preparation regulations that aim to ensure programs are “preparing educators who are ready to succeed in the classroom.” The end goal of the teacher preparation regulations, Mahaffie said, is to tie the outcomes to Title IV TEACH Grant eligibility.
ED is also implementing final regulations on several other topics, Mahaffie said. Its gainful employment regulations went into effect July 1, and schools are expected to report data by the end of the month, although Baker said earlier in the week that just one-sixth of schools have done so thus far. The Violence Against Women Act, which was signed in March 2013, also went into effect this month and requires institutions to keep statistics on dating violence, domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking. Schools are also expected to ratchet up their reporting of those statistics.
Jeff Baker of the Department of
ED’s regulations on state authorization went into effect July 1 and require institutions to have state authorization with approval to provide postsecondary education programs and a student complaint process. Mahaffie noted, however, that these regulations only apply to brick-and-mortar schools and do not address distance education, which is an entirely separate issue.
“It’s a challenging issue we are still working through,” she said.
Mahaffie also updated members on its debt relief process for former Corinthian Colleges students. Until the for-profit college chain closed in April, Mahaffie said ED had only received a handful of requests for “defense to repayment,” and handled them piecemeal. She said the department has already received thousands of requests, and is expecting tens of thousands in total.
“We are trying very hard to group students together into categories and making decisions based on the category,” she said. “We certainly hope we never find ourselves in a situation like this again.”
Closing Luncheon attendees
Publication Date: 7/23/2015