National Conference Closes With Rep. John Kline Federal Update Address, NASFAA U Workshops

By Allie Bidwell, Communications Staff

NASFAA’s 2016 National Conference closed Wednesday morning with addresses from 2016-17 National Chair Lisa Blazer, Rep. John Kline (R-MN), and a federal update from NASFAA staff. Attendees also had the opportunity to attend one of two NASFAA U courses.

During her address, Blazer described the importance of NASFAA and its members to continually build the financial aid profession. To work toward that goal, Blazer said NASFAA will continue with its annual Leadership & Legislative Conference & Expo, which this coming year will feature a new track for practicing enrollment managers specifically focused on strategic enrollment management – an increasingly important issue for financial aid professionals.

“We are a profession that transforms the lives of students every day. We have a responsibility to build up the profession through education, training, and advocacy,” Blazer said. “We have to change, and we have to influence others to change as well. When I think about what I want to accomplish in the future, I think about making a difference in someone else’s life. I want to make an impact, so that means I have to keep moving.”

Following Blazer’s address, Kline – who chairs the House Committee on Education & the Workforce and will retire at the end of this Congress – spoke to conference attendees about the ongoing work to reauthorize the Higher Education Act (HEA), and what the committee’s priorities will be moving forward.

“It’s a serious business that you are in, and we’re trying to do what we can do to help you help students as we go through the process,” Kline said. “We all know about the importance of higher education … but we also know that too many Americans are struggling – struggling to achieve their dreams, and to get the education that would help them.”

Both the House and the Senate, Kline said, have been trying “for some time” to reauthorize HEA, but added that it is “extremely unlikely” that the law will be updated before the end of this Congress. However, the House has been working to move forward with other smaller pieces of legislation to make progress toward some of its priorities outside the formal reauthorization process, he said. Just this week, the House unanimously passed five higher education bills, including three bills that solidify the use of prior-prior year (PPY) income data on the FAFSA, mandate annual loan counseling, and develop a new online consumer information tool.

“Many times, you have been hampered in your ability to make decisions and help students make decisions, and sometimes they don’t know what they’re getting into,” Kline said of increasing financial aid administrators’ authority to counsel students about borrowing. “It seems to me that you need to have the authority. I think it would help [the students] and the institutions if we could put you, the professionals, in charge.”

NASFAA President Justin Draeger and Megan McClean Coval, vice president for public policy and federal relations, then gave members an update on what the association’s priorities are during the reauthorization process, and how NASFAA’s advocacy efforts can influence the outcome.

“One of the things I have appreciated most about NASFAA ... is that in the end, we're always thinking about what's in the best interest of our students,” Draeger said.

Coval discussed how NASFAA played a role in making the use of prior-prior year (PPY) income data on the FAFSA a reality, and detailed a proposal to streamline the FAFSA by sorting applicants through one of three pathways.

Other possible themes in a reauthorization bill, based on bills Congress introduced in 2015, could include access and innovation, campus-based programs, consumer information and transparency, loans and repayment, military and veterans aid, Pell Grants, quality and accountability, and tax issues, Coval said.

“We don’t win everything. This is a town where ultimately … people have this idea that nothing gets done,” Draeger said. “Some things do get done. It gets done because we’re active, we voice our concerns. And with that sort of authority that we have to be able to advocate also comes some responsibility that we do it for the best interest of our students."


Publication Date: 7/14/2016

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