Magazine article University Business

Access and Success Addressed at NASFAA's Annual Conference: Exploring Critical Financial Aid and Program Funding Issues and Solutions

Magazine article University Business

Access and Success Addressed at NASFAA's Annual Conference: Exploring Critical Financial Aid and Program Funding Issues and Solutions

Article excerpt

Casual observers of the 2013 National Association of Student Aid Administrators conference in Las Vegas this summer may have felt as if they were seeing double, with all the talk of "prior-prior year" income tax.

NASFAA released the results from its recent study examining whether using two-years' prior income tax data on the federal student aid application could potentially provide students and their families with early award notification. That could be just the assurance they need that they can in fact afford a college education.

The current window to apply for financial aid is a tight one, since most families don't have their income taxes completed and filed by the time they submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Preliminary results of the NASFAA study, funded by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, indicate that moving to prior-prior year (PPY) could help families make good fiscal decisions earlier in the process.

The study analyzed financial aid records of more than 70,000 students from a variety of institutional types across a five-year timespan, including the 2008-2009 recession. Dependent students from very low-income families and independent students with dependents of their own could be ideal candidates for PPY. This is because their incomes are so low, some income variability from year to year does not affect their aid eligibility. Other students would experience various levels of variability in their financial aid packages from year-to-year.

The conference, held July 14 to 17 at the ARIA Resort & Casino, started with a presentation by Freeman Hrabowski, president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. In being named one of the Top 100 influential people in the world by Time magazine in 2012, Hrabowski was lauded for "turning a humble commuter school into one of the nation's leading sources of African Americans who get Ph.D.s in science and engineering." He shared his personal story and took questions from the audience of financial aid administrators.

In another keynote, NASFAA President Justin Draeger led a group of thought leaders in a discussion about financial aid program funding and ideas for policy reform. During the session, Draeger announced the formation of a new task force that will develop standards of ethics for campus financial aid practices. "Failure to stand up for our own profession leaves us open to federal intervention," he said. "We embrace the idea to hold ourselves accountable, first and foremost."

The task force, a subgroup of NASFAA's national board of directors, will update standards of ethical conduct and allow institutional-level financial aid administrators to tell other campus officials, if necessary, that a particular action is "not in keeping with my profession's ethical standards."

FEATURED SESSIONS

In "Top 10 Audit and Program Review Findings," Renee Gullotto of the U.S Department of Education presented the top financial aid process problems that occurred most often during FY2012. Those included calculation errors, funds distributed late, Pell Grant overpayments or underpayments, verification violations, student credit balance deficiencies, and entrance or exit counseling deficiencies.

Some of these issues, such as the return of Title IV funds made late, occur because of a lack of communication between offices at an institution. One office, for example, may know a student has withdrawn but may not have informed the financial aid office.

Other featured sessions included a "diversity caucus;" a presentation on what size financial aid staff is needed to get the job done; and a U. …

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