today’s news for Friday, June 18, 2021

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 Off the Cuff

This week on "Off The Cuff," the group returns from a week off to discuss the latest news as Megan covers a new bill released by top Democrats that calls for gradually doubling the maximum federal Pell Grant award over a five-year period and extend eligibility to those enrolled in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, commonly known as “Dreamers.” Jill then gives an update on the Department of Education’s (ED) announcement that it will employ a delayed, phased implementation of the changes made to federal methodology and the FAFSA, and Owen details debt forgiveness for an additional 18,000 borrower defense claims for individuals who attended ITT Technical Institute. Plus, the group wants to know your thoughts on UFO sightings! 

In a hearing centered around reopening institutions of higher education, a group of higher education panelists provided the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee with insights as to how campuses have utilized congressionally approved aid and how they are approaching the fall semester. Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), chairwoman of the committee, highlighted how pandemic relief funds have enabled her state to expand initiatives like the Seattle Promise Program, providing students with tuition-free community college, and offer students more affordable options in pursuing higher education.

Federal Pell Grants have failed for decades to keep pace with increased college costs and inflation. In a new issue brief, NASFAA presents the facts and calls on Congress to recommit to the original intent of the Pell Grant program by doubling the maximum grant amount to $13,000 to restore its purchasing power for low- and moderate-income students struggling to meet college costs. Doubling the Pell Grant would make up for necessary investments in federal student aid that have been pushed off for decades. In addition to these increases, NASFAA calls on Congress to reinstate automatic inflationary increases and to fund the program like other federal entitlement programs, through mandatory funding.


Much like the balmy summer headed our way here in Washington, D.C., throughout the last month the Student Aid Reference Desk has been picking up steam. Since the publication of our May release notes, we have been pleased to add two more project partners, one more Department of Education reference, and 15 more publications, articles, and resources. June saw a newly added Ref Desk resource — which provides findings from a May 2021 survey of financial aid administrators and shows that more than a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, families and students are still struggling to afford college — written about in respected trade publications, including Inside Higher Ed and University Business. There’s a lot more to explore in the Ref Desk this month — dive in to June's release notes.

Please join us in congratulating Mechelle Thompson, who was promoted to director of financial aid at Heritage Christian University, and offering a fond send-off to Georgeann Lucewich, financial aid specialist at Scott Community College, who will retire at the end of June after 26 years of working in financial aid; Inez Moreno-Weinert, student services director of financial aid at South Mountain Community College, who will retire at the end of June after 24 years of working in financial aid; Scott Morrison, director of financial aid at Bridgewater College, who will retire at the end of June after 32 years of working in financial aid; Beverly Walters, financial aid associate at Henry Ford College, who will retire at the end of June after 32 years of working in financial aid; and Deb Coleman, system analyst supervisor at University of Michigan - Dearborn, who will retire in August after 36 years of working in financial aid. Celebrate your career developments by completing the "Movers and Shakers" form to share the news with your colleagues. We'll review your submission and then post your update to our Movers and Shakers page for all to see.

The latest certification testing window has closed and the Registry continues to grow! The Certified Financial Aid Administrator® Commission — an independent certifying body of NASFAA — has now certified a total of 272 financial aid professionals who have earned the FAAC® designation. This designation recognizes the knowledge, experience, and dedication to ethical behavior that are the hallmarks of the financial aid profession. If you’re interested in becoming certified, verify your eligibility using our free interactive tool. The next two-week testing window opens on July 14, 2021.

Thanks to everyone who took a trip through the Student Aid Reference Desk scavenger hunt last week! We are pleased to announce our five randomly selected winners are: Ashley Lowe of the University of Alabama in Huntsville; Deb Vlek of Sonoran Desert Institute; Jennifer King of Clark College; Ryan Jensema of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary; and Darby Tippit of Spartanburg Methodist College. We'll be running our scavenger hunt through July 2, 2021, so there's only two more weeks to go. Complete this form with your scavenger hunt answers to be entered to win next week's prize.

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