Hi KASFAA members:
I thank you for providing me with the opportunity to travel to Nashville, Tennessee to attend the NASFAA National Conference. I joined over 2,500 financial aid professionals at the beautiful new Music City Center from Sunday to Wednesday, as we networked and attended sessions.
Sunday morning, I joined the NASFAA Web Redevelopment Task Force members in our first face-to-face meeting. The meeting was very eventful and we are very excited about the opportunity to work together to make a more effective and efficient website for the NASFAA membership.
The conference began shortly after our meeting on Sunday with a rousing keynote speech from educator Ron Clark, a Disney American Teacher of the Year and two-time bestselling New York Times author.
As a middle school educator, Ron Clark has helped students academically succeed from suburban North Carolina to New York City’s Harlem.
I just believed in these kids,” Clark exclaimed. “When I saw potential in them, they started to see it in themselves.”
We were encouraged by Ron Clark’s speech, as we know that we play a similar role as we help students every day.
After experiencing the charisma of Ron Clark, I attended the “Inside the Beltway” session with the NASFAA President Justin Draeger and Director of Policy & Advocacy Megan McClean. Together, they brought updates from Washington, D.C. to a room packed full of financial aid administrators.
Draeger let us know that the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act still has a long way to go and that it will likely receive a one-year extension to 2015, making next spring the earliest to expect major movement.
Draeger further spoke about the bills, the Higher Education Affordability Act from Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) and the bipartisan Financial Aid Simplification and Transparency (FAST) Act from Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO). Draeger let us know that these bills contain limitation of loans for broad categories of students, reinstituting year-round Pell Grants, and a FAFSA switch to prior-prior year (PPY) tax data to determine financial aid eligibility.
Megan McClean encouraged us to advocate for policies at the local level. She provided some key tips when advocating for policies and building relationships with legislators.
The next session I attended was the Federal Town Hall Meeting, and it opened with Ron Day, NASFAA Past National Chair and Director of Student Financial Aid at Kennesaw State University, stating, “This is the Jeff Baker Show!”
Jeff Baker, Director of Federal Student Aid for the U.S. Department of Education, provided federal updates and answered questions from the attendees of the session. Baker gave information about the the implications of Subsidized Usage Limit Applies (SULA), upcoming changes to the FAFSA, the proposed college ratings system, and the positive potential use of PPY.
Further, Baker, informed us that the Perkins loan program is scheduled to end on September 30, 2015.
After visiting the vendors in the exhibit area, I put on my boots and hat and headed out to downtown Nashville.
At breakfast, on Monday morning, Hedrick Smith, Pulitzer Prize-winning former New York Times reporter and editor and Emmy award-winning producer/correspondent, enlightened us by offering us an historical perspective of the United States’ economy and the division of poverty and prosperity dating back to the Great Depression.
Smith encouraged us to believe again in citizen power, get engaged in policy and action, and know that higher education is where positive political change can occur. Smith mentioned that we should pay attention to tax law because it is the single most important indicator of political power in the United States.
After breakfast, I attended a session about research and practice concerning student debt, where I garnered more information for my Ph.D. literature review. Diane Cheng, Research Analyst for The Institute for College Access & Success, Inc. provided research material, while Alison Rabil, Assistant Vice Provost and Director of Financial Aid for Duke University and Barry Simmons, Assistant Provost for Special Projects for Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University offered information about how their financial offices assist students through loan administration and counseling methods.
At lunch, Senator Lamar Alexander spoke about how the bipartisan FAST act that he and Senator Michael Bennett (D-CO) recently introduced would reduce the number of questions on the FAFSA to two: determination of family size and PPY income. Sen. Alexander encouraged us to “start from scratch with a new proposal (to simplify FAFSA) that has the correct objectives, and then add to that the other ideas that need to be put on it.”
After his speech, Senator Alexander was awarded the NASFAA Allan W. Purdy Distinguished Service Award by NASFAA National Chair, Craig Munier (Director of Scholarship and Financial Aid for the University of Nebraska).
During the lunch sessions, pictures of state and regional association members were presented on the big screens during a slideshow. I sent some pictures of our members to NASFAA to add to the slideshow. Here is one of our pictures, caught in transition.
On Monday afternoon, I attended a session about how to utilize efficient processing and detailed data gathering with all financial aid activities with our student information system as well as a session about consumer disclosure requirements and tools.
On Tuesday, I was able to see how technology is enhancing how we find and share information. I attended a session on the new NASFAA Student Aid Index (sai.nasfaa.org) and was impressed with the information within and the ease of obtaining the information we need, when we need it. I also attended a session on how to strategize the use of social media to better communicate with students and families. Although K-State does not use social media to communicate with students and families, I was able to see how KASFAA can utilize social media in many strategic ways to deliver information and enhance networking for members.
I would be remiss to not mention that I thoroughly enjoyed listening to the words of wisdom from the presenters of the session about how to appropriately deal with the demand for student aid data. Knowing the key players at our institutions, where all of the data resides, how to negotiate priorities, and how to clarify requests are all very critical components to understand when providing data.
It was really fun to tweet on Twitter.com throughout the conference with the hash tag “#NASFAA2014″ because I was able to meet so many other financial aid “Tweeters” online and at the conference. One of the perks is that sometimes NASFAA will see a picture that one of us “tweets” and “retweets” it on the NASFAA Twitter account (@nasfaa). This picture that I took of Craig Munier passing the gavel and hugging the new NASFAA National Chair, Eileen O’Leary (Assistant Vice President, Student Financial Services at Stonehill College) is one of those pictures.
At the award ceremony on Tuesday afternoon, our own Brenda Hicks (President-Elect for KASFAA, Past President for RMASFAA, and Director of Financial Aid for Southwestern College) won the NASFAA Leadership Award for her work with RMASFAA. The plaque will be presented to Brenda by Eileen O’Leary, NASFAA National Chair, at the upcoming RMASFAA fall conference in October, in Snowbird, Utah. Congratulations to Brenda Hicks!
The conference came to a close on Wednesday morning, as ED officials Jeff Baker and Lynn Mahaffie shared a number of updates (PowerPoint used during closing session).
Thank you, again, for the opportunity to attend the NASFAA National Conference. Next year, Brenda Hicks (President-Elect) will be attending the conference in New Orleans. I am looking forward to utilizing the knowledge and experience gained through the conference to help lead KASFAA now and throughout my term as President.
You can see more about the conference from the Facebook status updates, Twitter tweets, and pictures from sessions, events, and commentary on the NASFAA Facebook and Twitter accounts using #NASFAA2014 when you search. If you are a member of NASFAA, more information and session presentations can be obtained at nasfaa.org/conference.
Please let me know if you have comments or questions.
- Ben Kohl, KASFAA President