Tuesday, March 31, 2015

MASFAA Elections

(by Randy J. Ulses, University of Cincinnati, Delegate-at-Large and member of Elections & Nominations Committee)

The ballot is prepared and all we need now is for you to turn out the vote! Meet the candidates!

It is time for the annual MASFAA election. Each year the membership votes for President-Elect, Treasurer-Elect, and 2 Delegates-at-Large. Additionally, the positions of Vice President and Secretary are 2-year positions elected in alternating years. This year we will vote for Vice President.

MASFAA is extremely fortunate to have a full and strong slate of candidates. The election ballot is made up of many qualified individuals who have a real commitment to students, our profession, and our region. They will each bring unique experience and talents to their position upon election.

The Nominations and Election Committee thanks all persons who nominated colleagues and everyone who considered running for office. MASFAA’s strength is definitely found in its membership, and the committee is delighted with the strength of the ballot and varied backgrounds each candidate brings to their sought-after role.

All persons elected will serve on the Executive Board for 2 years beginning in October with the President-Elect beginning a 3-year cycle with the Board.

Please take the time to read each statement of candidacy and their backgrounds. The election window for submitting your online ballot is today, March 31st through April 16th. All regular, paid MASFAA members are eligible to vote and encouraged to do so.

Again, a special thank you to all MASFAA members who stand before us as candidates for the Executive Board. We are privileged to have so many talented individuals willing to serve and guide our association. All the best to each candidate!


If you do not remember your password, it can be retrieved online.

Monday, March 30, 2015

High School FAFSA Filing

(by Justin Chase Brown, Research Committee Member)

If you are receiving this post via email, it is best viewed on the blog, click here.

After reading a blog on High School FAFSA filing in Washington State last year, I contacted the author (as former chair of the Research Committee), Russ Cannon about putting something similar together for states in the Midwest, specifically the states included in the MASFAA region. You can read about this information and data collection on Russ's blog, Around Learning.

You can take a look at your specific state or geographic area below to review what high schools around you to target for FAFSA completion programs, such as College Goal Sunday. Are you currently reaching out to the schools that are most in need?

What this graphic shows you is the percentage of students who completed their FAFSA filing for the 2013-14 school year by April 11, 2013 (of those who at least submitted by December 2013).

If you want to see a larger graphic than what is below, please refer to the original blog post on the Around Learning blog.

As you think about which high schools to target next year, please keep this blog post in mind and review what high schools may be in greatest need for FAFSA assistance.


Growing Connections for Success

(by the 2015 MASFAA Conference Local Arrangements Committee)

October 4-7 in Coralville, Iowa

This year's annual MASFAA conference will be at the Marriott Hotel, Coralville, Iowa.  We are busy planning the conference to make it fun and informative!  Continue to watch the MASFAA Moments Blog for more information and fun facts about Iowa in the future!  Whether you are driving or flying, it’s never too early to start planning your trip.  The Coralville Marriott will be providing complimentary shuttle service to/from the Eastern Iowa Airport so that is one less thing to think about!  Check out the Coralville Chamber of Commerce website to see what will be around the hotel within walking distance. You might also start contemplating things you can donate to raise money for our charity during a new and exciting way to be part of an auction!  More information on this will come to you soon!

Here’s a sample of some fun facts:
  • Iowa 80 in Walcott is known as the world’s largest Truck stop
  • Strawberry Point, IA is home to the largest Strawberry in the world

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Meet the Candidates on MASFAA's 2015-2016 Ballot!

(by the Nominations and Elections Committee)

MASFAA's Nominations and Elections Committee has worked diligently to present the membership with a strong slate of candidates for the positions of President-Elect, Vice President, Treasurer-Elect, and two Delegate-at-Large positions. Look for an announcement early next week inviting you to cast your vote.

To meet the candidates, preview the ballot now.


Michelle Curtis, University of Wisconsin Madison (WASFAA)
For Michelle's bio, visit

Thomas Ratliff, Indiana Wesleyan University (ISFAA)
For Thomas's bio, visit
Vice President

Justin Brown, University of Missouri (MASFAP)
For Justin's bio, visit

Craig Slaughter, DePauw University (ISFAA)
For Craig's bio, visit

Jayne Dinse, South Central College (MAFAA)
For Jayne's bio, visit

Debbie Schumm, University of St. Francis (ISFAA)
For Debbie's bio, visit

Heidi Carl, Wabash College (ISFAA)
For Heidi's bio, visit

Michelle Dunne, Grand View University (IASFAA)
For Michelle's bio, visit

Steven Foster, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor (MSFAA)
For Steven's bio, visit

Melinda Middleton, Rose Hulman Institute of Technology (ISFAA)
For Melinda's bio, visit

Cheryl Willard, Baldwin Wallace University (OASFAA)
For Cheryl's bio, visit

Monday, March 23, 2015

The Award Letter Cycle

Many of us have been or will be soon working on sending out financial aid award letters. Let us know if any of these steps of the award letter cycle sound familiar:

[This post best viewed on the blog. If you've received this via email, click here].

FAFSA Campaigning

Determining Funding

Predicting Tuition and Fees to Develop Your Cost of Attendance Budgets

Entering Awards and Creating Letters

Mailing and/or Notifying Students

Students and Parents Reviewing Award Letters

And We're Done! Time to Celebrate!

Or is it just the beginning!?

Wishing you the best for 2015-2016!

Iowa Update

(by Julie Haack, Iowa Representative)

It’s been a long winter and we are finally beginning to see the signs of spring and with it comes the start of a new awarding year and all the glory that comes with it! We are in the heat of it now as I’m sure all of you are!

A lot has happened here in Iowa since I last posted in December.

Our Community Outreach committee organized Governor Terry Branstad’s signing of a proclamation making February Financial Aid Awareness Month. Twenty IASFAA members attended the signing, one of the largest groups yet, to show their support.

The signing was pre-empted by the Director’s Drive-in Workshop, an event held each February in Des Moines that brings together Directors from around the state to discuss current events and issues.

Elections were held in January and those slated to serve under President-Elect Kristi Fuller for the 15-16 term are:

Chris Ditter – Drake University, President-Elect; Amy Norton – Clarke University, Vice-President; Chad Peters - DMACC, Secretary; Tristan Lynn - AIB, Treasurer-Elect; and Erick Danielson - ICAN, Delegate. We thank each and every one that agreed to run for these elected positions and give their time to IASFAA!

Kristi Fuller attended the MASFAA board meeting in my place in January, and traveled to Indiana on January 28-30 as our State Exchange representative.

Erick Danielson from ICAN and Sarah Harrington from University of Iowa will be attending the MASFAA Leadership symposium in June. And our own Chad Olson from Iowa State, our current Program Chair, will be among the faculty for this year’s MASFAA Summer Institute being held concurrently with Leadership.

Our spring conference to be held April 9th & 10th in Johnston, Iowa is right around the corner and we will be hosting Val Meyers from Michigan as our State Exchange guest. Val will also be presenting on Consumer Information at the conference. We appreciate her willingness to participate in our conference!

Have a great spring everyone!

Monday, March 16, 2015

President Obama unveils new Student Aid Bill of Rights – March 10, 2015

The President announced a new “declaration of values” for higher education students and is asking for online signatures from anyone who agrees.

The Student Aid Bill of Rights has four tenets to ensure that students have the information and resources necessary to afford college and repay loans if they borrow.

President Obama was quoted as saying: “We want everybody who agrees with these principles to sit down and work with us and figure out how they can make these student rights real." The online survey can be found at:

MASFAA, be sure to express your views!

MASFAA Washington D.C. Hill Visits – March 12, 2015

The MASFAA Federal Issues Committee held our Washington D.C. Hill Visits on Thursday March 12, 2015. We were able to visit with 18 different offices and all were very receptive of our message.


  • Gena Boling, MO
  • Roberta Johnson, IA
  • Christine Passer, MI
  • David Vikander, MN
  • Linda Hayes, OH
  • Aaron Knapp, WI
  • Sarah Soper, IN
  • Michelle Wortel, IL

Offices Visited:

  • Illinois – Representative Duckworth, Senator Durbin
  • Indiana – Congressman Messer
  • Iowa – Senator Ernst, Congressman Young, Congressman Blum
  • Michigan – Representative Walberg, Congressman Bishop
  • Minnesota – Senator Klobuchar, Representative Kline, Senator Franken
  • Missouri – Senator McCaskill, Senator Blunt
  • Ohio – Senator Brown, Congressman Latta, Representative Gibbs
  • Wisconsin – Senator Baldwin, Representative Pocan


  • The top aide for MN Representative Kline (House Chair of Education Committee) related that their main goal is to have a bill on President Obama’s desk by the end of 2015.
  • Most offices were doubtful that full Reauthorization would happen in 2015.
  • Prior-Prior Year – every member met with was very positive about this and felt there was currently strong bi-partisan support. Very likely that this will be in multiple bills.
  • Direct Loan Subsidies and the Federal Perkins Loan Program – there appears to be very strong support for the One Grant, One Loan, and One Work idea. That would eliminate both the Direct Loan Subsidy and Perkins. Their belief is it would cost billions at this point to save Perkins. 
  • FAFSA Simplification – most offices appeared to support simplification of the FAFSA itself and making formula revisions to make the need analysis process more equitable for applicants.

Support of Federal Financial Aid Funding

  • Federal Pell Grant – we can expect to see proposals for a “Flexible Pell Grant” with some version of “Year Round Pell” again but it sounded like it would not include the “acceleration” clause and the dictation of summer crossover periods.
  • Federal Work Study – all members visited recognized the importance of work for students in regards to GPA’s and Graduation Rates. All appeared to support continued funding.

Financial Literacy and Loan Indebtedness

  • Simplifying Federal Repayment Programs – there appears to be strong support of making one Standard Repayment Program and One Income Based Repayment Program.
  • Early Awareness of Federal Financial Aid Programs – we shared the importance of providing accurate and helpful consumer information disclosures for students and families regarding college cost that is consumer tested. 
  • Review of Current Practice of Student Loan Entrance Counseling – most offices were well aware that the current 30 minute online sessions are not meeting the Financial Literacy needs of our students. They were open to ideas of how to make these sessions more impactful.

MASFAA Summer Institute: Testimonials

As those planning MASFAA's Summer Institute, there’s only so much we can say to convince you of the value in attending the event.  Instead, we’d like to offer personal insight from a few of our 2014 graduates!

Lea Polizzi - Advisor, University of Wisconsin-Madison

I had a wonderful experience attending the Summer Institute and would encourage my fellow colleagues to take advantage of this great opportunity. The positive and friendly environment supported inclusion for all attendees no matter the experience level. Some participants had financial aid experience of more than a decade while others had just as a few months of financial aid experience. The different skill levels of participants made little difference due to the fact everyone had something to learn. Our understanding of financial aid expanded on the macro level when we learned about how different institutions procedurally handle the same federal regulations. Summer Institute provided engaging group activities which encouraged attendee interaction and cooperation. Kudos to the organizers, they created an atmosphere where training can be fun and stimulating.

On a more personal note, I became friends with many of the other attendees and remain in regular contact. Some of these relationships will continue to grow and flourish over the rest of my life. Thank you, Summer Institute, for all of the knowledge you have provided and friendships you have fostered!

Katie Hill - Counselor, Ursuline College

Prior to Summer Institute, I had been working for a company who serviced families by helping them submit their FAFSA and guide them through the financial aid process. While I was gaining much needed experience where I was working, I knew that I eventually wanted to evolve my experience into a career at a college in the Financial Aid Department.

Summer Institute (SI) not only taught me important information about the federal financial aid process, it also validated my aspirations to become a Financial Aid Administrator. Our very first session was an ice-breaker exercise. The leaders of SI had everyone in attendance line up in sequential order per how long they have been working in financial aid. The range of the group began with people who had been working in financial aid for only two weeks to people who have been working in financial aid for years. When we got to the leadership committee, they explained why they work in financial aid and why it matters to them. It was really influential to hear our mentors explain how much they loved helping students succeed in college by guiding them through financial aid. This exercise really sealed the deal for me. I knew that I was where I belonged for all the right reasons.

The rest of the week was jam-packed with educational sessions pertaining to the application process, Verification, packaging, Return to Title IV, Federal Methodology, Professional Judgment, and more. Each session was informative and collaborative. We were able to discuss the diverse policies within each of the schools, and it was really interesting to compare and contrast situations that occur within the different Financial Aid Offices. At the end of each day, we were able to spend time with everyone in a more relaxed atmosphere. It was great to sit with new and old administrators and just talk. I was able to network with so many people who really enjoyed what they did. I was even being mentored while I was eating dinner!

Summer Institute as a whole was a very positive experience for me. I felt like I was part of something bigger than just processing paperwork. I connected with so many people whom I keep up with on social media regularly, and was even able to have my resume reviewed and critiqued which helped me acquire a position in a financial aid office. I am now a Financial Aid Counselor and can’t wait to get more involved with my state organization and hopefully one day MASFAA as well.

2015 MASFAA Summer Institute Details

Where? IUPUI Campus, Indianapolis, IN

When? June 1 – 5

Why? Increase your financial aid knowledge, earn NASFAA credentials, network with regional partners and colleagues, and be more involved with MASFAA

What? NASFAA Core Modules – from the Application Process through Return to Title IV

Registration will be open any day now! Watch the MASFAA website training page and keep an eye out for a MASFAA listserv e-mail! 

Looking for more photos? Check out MASFAA’s Facebook group and albums! 

2015 Conference Program Input

(by Crystal Bruntz, 2015 Program Committee)

The 2015 MASFAA Conference in Coralville, Iowa will be here before you know it and planning is now in full force.  The program committee would like your assistance in building the conference program to fit your needs.  Please utilize the survey link below to submit sessions and presenters you would like to see at the conference.  You can also submit session topics and the committee will attempt to find a presenter should the topic be chosen. 

2015 MASFAA Program Survey

Monday, March 9, 2015

New & Aspiring Aid Director's Pathway: Zach

We had several MASFAA members attend the new track added to the NASFAA Leadership and Legislative Conference and Expo this year, titled the New and Aspiring Aid Director's Pathway. This is the second of two posts from those in our regional association who attended this track.

by Zach Greenlee, Missouri Baptist University

There is a point in life where you realize that you don’t know everything, can’t do everything, and that the world will keep spinning without you. This point must be when you become a Financial Aid Director. I joke, but this seemed to be a tacit lesson of every larger point being made at the New & Aspiring Aid Director’s conference in D.C. last week. Before the conference began, there were several pages of comments gathered from veteran financial aid directors on the topic of what they wished they had known when they first became directors. Lessons on training staff, delegating, and growing the skills of others were all brought up on several times. As we discussed all of this gathered wisdom at the conference, Ron Day made a point that hit it all home for me. Compliance is not a major part of your job, and at best, should be about 10% of your job.

Now if this seems like a “Whatever does he mean?” kind of statement to you, as it did to me when I first heard it, let me qualify it by saying that a director still signs their name on the Program Participation Agreement (PPA) to declare that funds and programs will be administered correctly. That said, a director’s job cannot be so “in the weeds” just to make sure that everything is being done correctly that they overlook all of their other responsibilities. If you can accept that compliance is not your only responsibility, you must reconcile how it can be an institutional priority without you as the only person maintaining it. Thus, all the advice on delegating and having a well-trained staff starts to make sense.

For those of us who are or recently were so “in-the-weeds” of compliance, going up the ladder of responsibility seemed synonymous with giving more attention to all the complexities of administering federal aid. What it really means is that you have to focus less on what makes you successful and more on what makes your staff successful. One person’s wisdom put it this way, “… nurturing and growing staff, allowing them to become experts and the public face to the university community on their areas of expertise… keeping in regular communication with them means that my staff now takes ownership over making sure we are following all the rules and regulations.”

Strangely, the struggle of focusing less on one’s self and more on others might possibly be achieved by focusing more on yourself! Quite the contradiction, yes? Justin Draeger led a session on the importance of developing a better work-life balance. One of the shared tips involved understanding the Pareto principle (aka the 80/20 rule) in your daily life. Justin also shared on learning when to say that okay is good enough for a project. As a director, we do not need to prove ourselves by showing off how capable we can be and how well we can lead, especially if it means driving ourselves into the ground. For many of us, we see this next step as a director to probably be a position we will maintain for years to come, and for some it will be our last position until we retire. If we don’t want to be a candle that burns out overnight, we have to learn to live and let live.

As all of these ideas and suggestions from the experts of our industry were sinking in, I revisited that first explicit lesson of the conference: that I don’t have to know everything. Aspriring to be a director, I’m challenged to learn and see how my staff can share in this endeavor, how our knowledge of specifics can cover the whole, how I can be more efficient with my time, and how to have a life where I am present in each moment. I do not have to know everything. I need to know enough, and then I need to know who else knows the rest. I’m thankful for the opportunities to not only learn from some of the best NASFAA has to offer, but to also network with them and others who share my aspirations.

P.S. Let’s keep the discussion going. Those who attended the conference each received a copy of “You’re the Director: A Guide to Leadership in Student Financial Aid.” If there is interest in moving through this book with colleagues by forming an online discussion group, please email me at with a Subject line of “Reading Group: You’re the Director.” If we can get 10-15 people interested, I will put together a group to begin in mid-April. If you do not have a copy, you can order one from NASFAA at and it could take 2-4 weeks for delivery.

New & Aspiring Aid Director's Pathway: Betsy

We had several MASFAA members attend the new track added to the NASFAA Leadership and Legislative Conference and Expo this year, titled the New and Aspiring Aid Director's Pathway. This is the first of two posts from those in our regional association who attended this track.

by Betsy Henkel, Illinois State University

I recently attended NASFAA’s Leadership and Legislative Conference under the New and Aspiring Aid Directors track. I was encouraged by my office’s current Director of Financial Aid to attend the conference so that I could learn more about what being an aid director meant and to see if it was for me. Prior to the conference, I thought Directors of Financial Aid had to be the ultimate Financial Aid guru—an expert in federal regulations, compliance, and systems. Within the first session with Ron Day, I was surprised to learn that this is actually a very small portion of a Director’s responsibility. Throughout the rest of the sessions, I had the opportunity to listen to new and experienced aid directors and discuss how to manage employees, how to offer better service to our students, and how to foster a positive relationship with other offices on campus. I currently have limited supervising experience so I found the sessions regarding an aid director's role as a boss particularly insightful and valuable for my career’s path. My biggest takeaways from the conference are:

  • If I wish to see change in my office or on my campus, I must lead by example. 
  • Being a good DFA isn’t achieved through micromanaging or focusing on making the office perfect; its more about creating an environment where all people—students, employees, and colleagues—can feel comfortable and able to focus on what really matters: our students. 

Overall, I enjoyed not only the opportunity to learn and set career goals for myself but also the opportunity to network and visit with my colleagues.

NASFAA Leadership & Legislative Conference & Expo – Association Management Pathway

(by Sue Swisher, MASFAA President-Elect)

Last week I had the opportunity to attend the NASFAA Leadership and Legislative Conference and Expo in Washington D.C. along with other MASFAA members representing the states in our region. I attended the Association Management Pathway which prepares future association leaders with the perspective and insight in understanding the legal, financial, and management issues facing financial aid leaders today.

While I have been to Washington D.C. previously, I have never had to opportunity to see the monuments at night.  So, I took advantage of the bus tour on the first evening I was there.  The tour guide was great and seeing the monuments at night was breathtaking.

The conference kicked off with Dr. Michela Perrone providing information on Governance and Board Members’ Legal Obligations.  Additional sessions offered included topics on leadership characteristics, leading change, running a meeting, conflict resolution, and sizing up your association. The conference also provided an update on federal issues and a legislative symposium to prepare us for the Hill visits on the final day.

As I reflect on the conference, I walked away feeling energized by all the information provided as I plan for becoming President of MASFAA.  This was my first opportunity to visit the Hill and advocate for financial aid and meet with staff from both the House and Senate.  Since the meetings were short, I focused on FAFSA Simplification, Student Loan Repayment, and the Federal Pell Grant.  It felt great knowing I exercised my constitutional right and was able to voice our financial aid concerns.

Joining me at the conference were the following state representatives in the MASFAA region:
  • Illinois: Julie Israel, Dan Mann
  • Indiana: Emily Janero, Christie Miller
  • Iowa: Christine Ditter
  • Michigan: Katherine Allen, Gabriela Garfield, Shashanta James, David Urbaniak, Kristi Welling
  • Minnesota: Barbara Charboneau, Kari Zakariasen
  • Missouri: Kristen Gibbs, Angela Karlin, Dena Norris, Nick Prewett
  • Ohio: Angela Johnson, Edward Recker, Amanda Reisenger
  • West Virginia:  Kathy Bialk, Debra Turner
  • Wisconsin: Debra Duff, Jill Price

Monday, March 2, 2015

College Scholarship Twitter Chat with U.S. News & World Report

(by Chandra Owen, Michigan State University & Member of Communications & Electronic Initiatives Committee)

A few weeks ago the Office of Financial Aid at Michigan State University was approached by U.S. News & World Report’s Web Producer for Education who was organizing a Twitter chat to talk about college scholarship tips. We were happy to volunteer and share advice with students, high school counselors and others following the chat. 

On February 19th we joined U.S. News Education, Scholarship America, FastWeb, and The College Board using the #ScholarshipChat hashtag to discuss questions ranging from “What advice do you have for students just beginning the scholarship search process?” to “How can winning scholarship money affect a student’s financial aid eligibility”. There were a lot of great responses from many participants. If you are looking for scholarship application tips to add to your outreach materials view the chat below.