My Summer Institute Experience – by Becca Page

Hello KASFAA!!!

Going into S.I., I wanted to learn more about financial aid at other institutions. There is so much to know about the regulations and processes for financial aid, we can only benefit from putting all of our heads together.

Our class was larger than most with 21 professionals who ranged from customer service specialists to new directors. We had specialists from community colleges, from four-year institutions, from scholarship foundations, and from graduate programs. 

Our class was very communicative and shared a variety of experiences that help to understand the intricacies of the regulations we learned about. It really helped me to learn the range of the regulations and processes to see how they apply to a broader variety of examples. For instance, I know how to award a loan in a semester-based academic year, but in one of our small group activities, several of the other people were accustomed to working in a quarter or trimester system. We spent most of our group time discussing how to divide the annual maximums for summer based on the prior terms. Dividing by two or four is not really difficult, but it helped me to understand how the processes actually work and to pay attention to why we do what we do.

Practicing the regulations and digging into the specifics was one of the greatest benefits of attending S.I. this year. My other greatest take-away was the opportunity to network with other professionals in our region. I am still new to the industry and S.I. offered the opportunity to connect with other Neophytes who will be great resources in the future. I am already planning my next RMASFAA and KASFAA events!

S I  After Banquet Pic (3)

Check out the awesome purple Prince fans in our Neophyte group! 

Have fun!
Becca Page

My Summer Institute Experience – by Stephannie DeLong

SI 2My name is Stephannie DeLong and I am the Family Financial Planner and Senior Counselor at Southwestern College in Winfield, Kansas. I am chair of the KASFAA Publicity & Awareness committee and one of the KASFAA Summer Institute scholarship recipients this year.  At Southwestern, I work with new freshmen and transfer students throughout their recruitment and enrollment process up to the start of fall classes.  That means I assist them with everything from getting accepted, applying for both institutional and outside scholarships, FAFSA completion, financial aid counseling through packaging and getting them ready for disbursement.  While this is my second time at Summer Institute, my perspective has changed so much since I attended nine years ago and I was looking forward to learning and growing during the week.

Heading out to Summer Institute I was definitely ready for the fast pace and knew that the week would fly by.  I had some specific goals for the week in terms of what I wanted to learn which included: more in depth consumer information tips, campus based aid overview (since I deal more with institutional aid I wanted a broader understanding) and mostly I wanted to learn more about how other schools handle division of duties (do they specialize or does everyone handle the same types of work within a segment of their student body). My travel day started well before dawn with a drive to the airport, a flight to Chicago, a second flight to Denver and the longest shuttle ride in history to the beautiful Golden, Colorado campus.  Looking back I could have driven to Golden in the time it took me to fly, but I did enjoy the trip and I also read an entire book in one day (no small feat for someone with a busy workload and two children).  I even managed to participate in the evening game of Adult Hungry Hippos (please tell me there are no pictures of that).

The first two days of class were fairly intense and full of information.  Our instructors, Penny and Sharon were so helpful, knowledgeable and friendly.  We covered ACA, COA, SAP, SEOG, IASG and NASFAA’s compliance toolkit.  It was two solid days of financial aid acronyms but overall I learned so much and I have made some serious plans to hole myself away and study the compliance toolkit.  The best parts of these days were the panel moderators and the discussion that took place in our class.  It was great to hear different perspectives as well as some of the common issues we all face.  That evening, I had the chance to earn a ton of participation points when my classmate Cindi and I represented the entire Journey Classroom in “Minute to Win It.”   We didn’t come away with the lead but it was fun watching all of the other teams duke it out.

Wednesday was the shortest day in class but the most beneficial in terms of the type of information I wanted to review.  We discussed Packaging and Awards Notifications as well as Consumer Information.  Once again we had a panel but also some great comparison information from other RMASFAA schools.  I came away with some great ideas as well as some new things to implement at my own school…in other words a longer To Do list!  We did get out early that day and I enjoyed the Coors Brewery Tour, some downtown shopping and some of the best Thai food I’ve ever had at Golden Thai.  The green curry and satay were excellent.

The end of the week included sessions on Professional Judgment, Audit Findings and R2T4.  There was a lot of great discussion again and some excellent in depth information but I have to admit that the note that stands out most during that final day reads “R2T4 sucks.”  I think we can all agree on that, right?

Our final banquet and awards ceremony was great.  The participation of and preparation by the SI committee, instructors and all of the volunteers blew me away.  It was great to see everyone have fun and end the week on a high note.  I met people from every state in our RMASFAA region, learned so much more than I ever thought possible in one week and will truly use this week to enhance the services I offer in my own college and community.  I also found a great co-chair for my KASFAA Publicity & Awareness Committee!  Thank you again to KASFAA for allowing me to attend on scholarship this year.  I look forward to another great year at Southwestern and my year as committee chair.

~ Stephannie

HELP WANTED: KASFAA VOLUNTEERS

In April, I suggested that we needed 60 volunteers to make this association work.  As of today (May 28), I have 39.  What does this mean?classified

 This means that another 21 of you have an EXCELLENT opportunity to volunteer with one of the BEST financial aid associations in the country. 

And I am not saying that lightly.  This association has produced several leaders in the financial aid profession over the years and continues to be well represented both in the region and on national committees.  How did those people do that?  They STARTED by volunteering with KASFAA on a committee. 

If you don’t know what committee to serve on – don’t let that stop you!  :)  Give me your name, tell me you would like to volunteer, say you aren’t sure where.  I’ll call you up and we’ll talk about it. 

I hope to hear from you all VERY soon.  Seriously.  Email me: Brenda.hicks@sckans.edu

FYI KASFAA Members: IRS says thieves stole tax info from 100,000 (IRS Tax Transcript Request website shut down)

APNewsBreak: IRS says thieves stole tax info from 100,000

WASHINGTON (AP) — Sophisticated criminals used an online service run by the IRS to access personal tax information from more than 100,000 taxpayers, part of an elaborate scheme to steal identities and claim fraudulent tax refunds, the IRS said Tuesday.

The thieves accessed a system called “Get Transcript,” where taxpayers can get tax returns and other filings from previous years. In order to access the information, the thieves cleared a security screen that required knowledge about the taxpayer, including Social Security number, date of birth, tax filing status and street address, the IRS said.

“We’re confident that these are not amateurs,” said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. “These actually are organized crime syndicates that not only we but everybody in the financial industry are dealing with.”

Koskinen wouldn’t say whether investigators believe the criminals are based overseas — or where they obtained enough personal information about the taxpayers to access their returns. The IRS has launched a criminal investigation. The agency’s inspector general is also investigating.

Identity thieves, both foreign and domestic, have stepped up their efforts in recent years to claim fraudulent tax refunds. The agency estimates it paid out $5.8 billion in fraudulent refunds to identity thieves in 2013.

“Eighty percent of the of the identity theft we’re dealing with and refund fraud is related to organized crime here and around the world,” Koskinen said. “These are extremely sophisticated criminals with access to a tremendous amount of data.”

Congress is already pressing the IRS for information about the breach.

“That the IRS — home to highly sensitive information on every single American and every single company doing business here at home — was vulnerable to this attack is simply unacceptable,” said Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. “What’s more, this agency has been repeatedly warned by top government watchdogs that its data security systems are inadequate against the growing threat of international hackers and data thieves.”

Koskinen said the agency was alerted to the thieves when technicians noticed an increase in the number of taxpayers seeking transcripts.

The IRS said they targeted the system from February to mid-May. The service has been temporarily shut down.

Taxpayers sometimes need copies of old tax returns to apply for mortgages or college aid. While the system is shut down, taxpayers can still apply for transcripts by mail.

The IRS said its main computer system, which handles tax filing submissions, remains secure.

“In all, about 200,000 attempts were made from questionable email domains, with more than 100,000 of those attempts successfully clearing authentication hurdles,” the agency said. “During this filing season, taxpayers successfully and safely downloaded a total of approximately 23 million transcripts.”

The agency is still determining how many fraudulent tax refunds were claimed this year using information from the stolen transcripts. Koskinen provided a preliminary estimate, saying less than $50 million was successfully claimed.

Thieves can also use the information to claim fraudulent tax refunds in the future. As identity theft has exploded, the agency has added filters to its computer system to identify suspicious returns. These filters look for anomalies in the information provided by the taxpayer.

Until recently, tax refund fraud has been surprisingly simple, once thieves obtain a taxpayer’s Social Security number and date of birth. Typically, thieves would file fake tax returns with made-up information early in the filing season, before the legitimate taxpayers filed their returns — and before employers and financial institutions filed wage and tax documents with the IRS.

The refunds would often be sent electronically to prepaid debit cards or bank accounts.

IRS officials say new computer filters are helping to stop many crude attempts at identity theft. This year, the IRS stopped almost 3 million suspicious returns, Koskinen said.

However, old tax returns can help thieves fill out credible-looking returns in the future, helping them get around the IRS filters.

Tax returns can include a host of personal information that can help someone steal an identity, including Social Security numbers and birthdates of dependents and spouses. The IRS said the thieves appeared to already have a lot of personal information about the victims.

The IRS said it is notifying taxpayers whose information was accessed.

Link to story: http://bigstory.ap.org/article/34539a748b3745ffb92451472f814ffa/apnewsbreak-irs-says-thieves-stole-tax-info-100000

Spring Conference “Urban KASFAA” was a Success!

The conference planning committee would like to thank everyone who took part in the spring conference in Old Town Wichita!  KASFAA had over nearly 180 individuals attend and participate in training sessions and entertainment activities.  Amazing!Tricia and Tisha

The conference featured general sessions with several guest speakers.  Art Young, current RMASFAA president, attended on Wednesday and led an interactive listening session to better learn how RMASFAA can serve KASFAA members.  I think many of us are interested in using the Poll Everywhere website that he used for our own presentations!  On Thursday, we had our Federal Update provided by ED Trainer Bruce Honer and got the inside scoop on the FSA ID, Gainful Employment and the new PLUS credit rules.

Bruce

On Friday, Megan McClean from NASFAA offered us an overview of the current climate for the federal student aid programs in Washington and NASFAA’s efforts to advocate for us.  Finally, our closing speaker, Gina Marx from Newman University, helped us all learn more about coach leadership and how we should approach difficult conversations with positive intent.

Attendees had four sets of breakout sessions to choose from during the conference!  Topics ranged from exit counseling to consumer disclosures to dealing with upset and angry individuals.  In addition, after the fall training’s success with forum sessions, the conference planning committee brought them back for the spring conference.  Round table discussions to share best practices on P&Ps, training, ethics and COA development provided attendees another mode of learning.   We had a solid track of presentations for our Fiscal Officers as well with updates about collections, litigations and Perkins.

Diane

At Thursday night’s banquet, we honored our own!   Over forty members were honored with Years of Service awards ranging from 10 years to 35 years.  We welcomed a set of first-time conference attendees and Electronic Resources won committee of the year!  We recognized our retirees (Connie Corcoran, Sylvia Ellis, Buzz Kliethermes, Jane Preston and LaVerne Schmidt) and gave special recognition to Ben Kohl and Teresa Moore.   Elaine Henrie won the Hall of Fame Award, Gary Bateman was honored with the Deborah Byers Outstanding Service Award and Buzz Kleithermes was recognized with the Meritorious Achievement Award.  Congratulations to all the award winners!  To see pictures of winners, please visit https://www.facebook.com/pages/KASFAA-Kansas/166447041894.

conference newcomers

We were honored to have the family of Deb Byers with us for the awards banquet.  Her husband, Brian, her son, Matt, her daughter, Ashley, and her son-in-law, Mark, were there to receive the RMASFAA President’s Special Award which was bestowed upon Deb posthumously at the fall RMASFAA conference.  Sheelu Surrender from Wichita State University shared a speech that Deb had written about her work in financial aid from her first encounters with the financial aid director at Emporia State University as a student to her time being an aid administrator herself.  It was a lovely way for all of us to remember our friend and colleague and to honor the work she did for our profession.

Ashley and Matt

To go along with our urban cowboy theme, we had some fun entertainment options.  Wednesday night we were regaled with cowboy poetry and songs by Del Shields.  Everyone in attendance went home a little bit Western!  Thursday evening our attendees took to the stage and learned some line dancing while our fabulous associate members helped us spin the Wagon Wheel of Fortune so that we could all win KASFAA bucks to spend on the fabulous items in the Sales Barn!  Through our efforts we raised over $1500 for Pathway Family Services and their TRAIL program, Teens Reaching Adult Independent Living.  We presented a check on Friday to Pathway staff, and the expressed their sincere gratitude for our fundraising efforts!

The conference committee thanks everyone for attending!  Be sure to visit http://kasfaa.org/docs/toc_conferences.html to download conference materials!  See you October 22-23 at the Salina Ambassador Hotel for Fall Training!

MANY HANDS MAKE LIGHT WORK

One of the first “jobs” of the KASFAA Presidency is to light a fire under the KASFAA membership and gather up the volunteers who will help this association run for the 15-16 year.  Consider this blog post a match. 

match (2)

In 1546, John Heywood – an English writer who fled England to avoid persecution as a Catholic – collected and categorized popular proverbs into a book.  He called them, “our common plaine pithie Proverbs olde.”  One of them you should recognize – even in its Old English form:
“Many handis make light warke.” 

KASFAA has 509 members on the books.  Wouldn’t it be AWESOME if even 50% of those people volunteered for committees?  Shoot – 25% would be 127 people on committees and holding offices!!!!!!  Truth be told – we really only NEED around 80 volunteers to cover the work of the association.  Right now – I have 40 on the books.  What does this mean?  THERE IS PLENTY OF ROOM FOR YOU!!!!!! 

If you haven’t completed a form yet and you are interested in signing up – please do so!  If you don’t want to mess with the form, just shoot me an email.  Be sure to include your contact information as well as the place you would like to volunteer.  We have critical needs and spots to fill in the following committees right now:  Archive, Association News, Awards, Electronic Resources, Finance, Fiscal Officers, Government Relations, Membership, Publicity and Awareness and the Welcome Committee. 

That’s like….all but 3 committees.  So again – PLENTY of room for you! 

Looking forward to hearing from you.

Brenda Hicks

A Peek Inside KASFAA – KASFAA Secretary

The role of the Secretary for KASFAA is pretty straightforward.  You document of the important discussions/ideas and voting actions of the Board of Directors and Business Meetings.  You post the minutes first as pending and then as approved.

Nothing about this position is what you might conjure up when thinking about duties of the old-fashioned secretary.  There’s virtually no filing, no mailings to prepare, no coffee to pour, no schedules to keep for your boss, and no answering the phone and “pretending” your boss has just left the office.

No, it is nothing like that.  You are a contributing member to the team who keeps our organization running efficiently.  You have a voice, you can help implement change, you what you do matters, and  you are helping record our history.

I would encourage you to consider running for this position.  It is a great way to be involved, so when you are asked to be on the ballot, say yes, because you want to be the person who receives a couple of boxes of envelops and stationery, just in case.  Did I mention that we don’t do mailings?

Elaine Henrie