July 7, 2014
Today’s guest post is from Capella’s Director of Public & Federal Aid Policy, Jillian Klein.
Last week I joined over 2,000 financial aid administrators in Nashville for the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA) conference. This annual conference is an opportunity for the financial aid community, NASFAA staff and the Department of Education to come together to share important updates, training and best practices in the industry. Justin Draeger, NASFAA’s president, opened the week by reminding attendees that the National Association of Financial Aid Administrators is “big enough for everyone, regardless of sector,” and the week of sessions and panels touched on emerging trends, opportunities and proposed changes that touch all areas of higher education.
The hottest topic of the week, of course, was the pending reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. The conference couldn’t have come at a better time, on the heels of several Higher Education Act bills that have been released over the past few weeks. In general, financial aid administrators are most concerned about a finalized reauthorization bill that includes a simplification of the federal financial aid application process (FAFSA), streamlined repayment options for student borrowers, stable and secure funding streams for the Title IV program, and the removal of administrative burdens that complicate financial aid processes.
More than ever before, financial aid administrators are also asking for a federal funding system that works for the contemporary student. The days of first-time, full-time students making up the majority are long gone, and federal financial aid funding needs to enable flexibility, support innovative models (like Capella’s FlexPath program), and ensure that funding is available for students who are on an accelerated path, as well as for those students attending college part-time while juggling family and career obligations.
It was wonderful to spend the week in Nashville with so many higher education professionals who are really devoted to making sure students succeed and that the federal financial aid program supports all students as they move through their programs. I’m already looking forward to next year’s NASFAA conference in New Orleans!