The 2015 NASFAA Conference in New Orleans had a little excitement Monday night. There were some protesters at the parade Monday night to protest the high cost of post secondary education. The protesters were treated politely and didn’t interfere with the fun. Tuesday’s sessions were conducted by school officials and officials from the Department and covered topics to assist aid administrators such as resources or tools to make life easier for the financial aid department There were COD updates,150% subsidized loan limits, help with awarding policies and State Authorization concerns. Sessions were geared towards clarifying current requirements more than providing new information.
A new proposed federal policy change that NASFAA is supporting is the use of prior prior year or PPY income data in preparing FAFSAs. The proposal would allow FAFSAs to be filed as early as September and current data seems to support that low income students would benefit most. Opponents of the proposal believe that it will increase Pell Grant spending and while NASFAA agrees, the upside would be more low income students being made aware that college is really a viable option for them. Federal town hall sessions enabled attendees to address questions and concerns to Department officials. One common complaint is that the regions are behind in issuing PPAs, program review reports, and final determination letters. While no new information was presented the town hall meetings were very valuable to the financial aid community as a means to bring important issues directly to the attention of policy officials.
On July 19, the National Association of School Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA) held its 2015 Conference in New Orleans. The conference program kicked off with the Keynote speaker Hill Harper, well known actor from CSI NY but also an author and philanthropist as founder of the Manifest Your Destiny Foundation, dedicated to empowering under-served youth through mentorship, scholarship, and Grant programs.
A Federal Town Hall session was held by U.S. Department of Education officials Jeff Baker, Lynn Mahaffie, and Carney McCullough plus several NASFAA officials. They answered questions from the audience on topics of current interest to the community.
The Session on Gainful Employment was, understandably, very well attended. The focus of the presentation included information on changes from the original GE reporting requirements to the current ones and some typical errors schools are making in reporting data and how to avoid them.
Several sessions revolved around projects within NASFAA to Re-imagine and Redesign Student Financial aid; reducing administrative burden, and simplifying R2T4 and the FAFSA. Other sessions focused on very specific topics of importance to the financial aid office that can be applied to real life situations such as unaccompanied homeless youth, R2T4 for module programs, verification changes, professional judgment and, new additions to consumer information. In addition to the specific topics related to financial aid, sessions addressed such topics as helping students borrow responsibly, and working with undocumented students.
Day one ended with an honest-to-goodness New Orleans parade from the Hyatt Regency to the French Quarter. The parade included a Brass Jazz band, a Boy Scout band and about 3,000 financial aid administrators. They do really know how to have a good time.