Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Notice of Executive Council Meeting June 2-3

This post is a notice that the MASFAA Executive Council has an upcoming meeting in Indianapolis, Indiana on June 2nd and 3rd to conduct association business. Members can contact leaders and representatives if you would like a concern to be addressed at the meeting.

Financial Aid 101 for Your Campus Community

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


In the financial aid office we often focus our training and communications on our staff and students, however, there may be a group that is hungry for financial aid knowledge that we are missing. Often academic advisors and other departments are asked questions that can impact a student’s financial aid, whether it is dropping a course, or awarding a student a scholarship. You may find that when others in the campus community have a basic understanding of the financial aid process it can improve what is communicated to your students, increases the likelihood that the student will be referred to the correct office in case any issues arise, and the community may gain greater respect for your processes.

Some of the topics you may want to cover include:
  • Financial Aid 101 – FAFSA, EFC, Cost of Attendance
  • What is Considered Financial Aid?
  • Impacts New Student Awards Have on Existing Financial Aid
  • Financial Options to Assist Students – Childcare, Computer, Emergencies
  • Maintaining Eligibility – Satisfactory Academic Progress
  • Financial Aid and Controllers Office Liaisons
  • Resources – Websites, Calculators, Video Tutorials
Recently at Michigan State we have joined together with our Human Resources and Controllers Office to provide a half day course titled “Processing Student Awards and Financial Aid”. The response has been overwhelmingly positive. We had to create a wait-list as we exceeded our course attendee limit during the first offering. Following the training we have received great communication with departments and they have stated how appreciative they are for the knowledge. They know which liaisons to direct the student to depending on their concern.

Keep in mind there are various ways to present this information. You may want to present it in-person or you may want to utilize your campus’s on-line learning management system to create an online course they can take as time allows.
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Monday, May 18, 2015

President's Update

(by Aaron Steffens, MASFAA President)

How can it possibly be the middle of May already? The MASFAA Summer Institute and Leadership Symposium are only a couple of weeks away and my year as MASFAA President is more than half over. Before I get too far in this blog post, I would like to thank all of the fine MASFAA members who volunteered to run for office this spring and congratulate the newly elected officer team. I would also like to thank each member who exercised their voting privileges in this election. The elections were extremely close and every vote made a difference!

Two upcoming changes to our elected board members have occurred recently; one as a result of the elections and one due to a change in profession. As Thomas Ratliff assumes the President-Elect position this fall, he leaves one year remaining on his Delegate-At-Large term. The MASFAA board recently appointed Cheryl Willard from Baldwin Wallace in Ohio to fill that vacancy beginning on October 7. In addition to the delegate change, I also accepted the resignation of Heather Gaumer as our Treasurer-Elect. Heather is stepping down from her position because she is taking on an admissions role at her institution. To that end, the board approved extending Val Meyers’ term as treasurer by one year and agreed to begin Debbie Schumm’s term as Treasurer-Elect early. I am grateful to everyone for their willingness and patience as we make these transitions.

My travel schedule has been busy the past few weeks and promises to continue that way for the near future as I work to visit each state conference. I made a quick visit to the IASFAA conference in April to deliver a brief MASFAA update and prepare the group to host the MASFAA conference this fall. Last week I attended the OASFAA Conference in Columbus, Ohio and plan to attend the ISFAA Conference in French Lick, IN at the end of May. I will stay in Indiana after the ISFAA Conference as Summer Institute, Leadership and our summer board meeting will be held the very next week in Indianapolis. I’ll be in Indiana for so long that they should make me an honorary Hoosier!!

Wishing everyone a great summer filled with relaxation and well-deserved vacation!

Aaron Steffens - MASFAA President

Federal Issues Update

(by Zach Greenlee, Federal Issues Committee member) 



How often does a normal citizen visit the U.S. Treasury website? I’ve increased my visits to once per year since 2013! In 2013, Congress voted to tie student loan interest rates to the auction price of their 10 year note (10 yr T-Note), held every May (see NASFAA article).

For the past two years, as new students ask about the interest rate on their loans, we have been able to say, “Well this year, it’s 4.66%. Next year, it will at least be 2.05%, but it is tied to the rates of the 10 year T-Note and we will have to see what that is after May.” And we have the same conversation but with different numbers for parent’s and graduate/professional students who borrow Direct Loans. We get to assure families that there is a fixed rate on their loans each year, and while we can’t say what the market will do in the future, there is a cap that would limit the interest rates.

On Wednesday, the 10 yr T-Note sold for 2.237%, so given the base requirements mandated by law, we can expect 2015-16 interest rates to be as follows:
  • 4.29% for undergrad Direct Loans (Stafford sub & unsub)
  • 5.84% for graduate/professional Direct Loans (Stafford unsub)
  • 6.84% for Direct PLUS Loans to parents and graduate/professional students
(NASFAA Article citing 2015-16 rates)

The new rates were also announced on IFAP on Friday.

As soon as the rates are made official and announced by ED through IFAP, we will be able to update disclosure statements, award letter comments, website postings, desk references, and send notification to students and parents. Not only is it a chance to break down some of the jargon we use that is confusing and overwhelming to students, but students might actually start checking the U.S. Treasury website themselves on a regular basis to become more informed on U.S. economic issues. (Hopefully they don’t just get enticed by the auction part of the site, where a Lamborghini is currently selling for $76k).

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A few other things to mention:

FSA & ED have a random sample survey that started up on Thursday, May 14th. The survey was announced earlier in the week on IFAP, and is an effort to measure FSA’s performance in terms of the ease with which school partners are able to do business with them. If you have received the survey and want to provide more information on the questions asked, please share your comments/thoughts with the rest of us. There is no mention of how long the survey will be administered or how large of a sample it will collect. Make sure this doesn’t go into your spam folder and please participate if you are selected. An example of what one colleague received is below:

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From: "Federal Student Aid, through CFI Group" <noreply-cfigroup@qualtrics-survey.com>
Date: May 15, 2015 at 8:00:00 AM CDT
To:
Subject: School Partners Survey Information - Web Surveys
Reply-To: "Federal Student Aid, through CFI Group" <cfisupport@cfigroup.com>

As part of our ongoing efforts to ensure that Federal Student Aid provides the best services possible to our school partners and, in turn, supports the school community in administering the Title IV programs for students, you have been selected to participate in a brief survey. Through this survey, which should take less than three minutes to complete, we will assess our performance in terms of the ease with which our school partners are able to do business with us.

Thank you in advance for your thoughtful and candid feedback. Please click on the following link to begin.

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An Inside HigherEd article posted on Friday refers to new draft regulations ED should be releasing soon. The draft regulations pertain to debit card and other financial products on campuses. We’ll hope to have more information posted after the announcement has been made.
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Monday, May 11, 2015

NASFAA Credentialing - Online Course Path

(by Melissa Haberman, Loan Manager, UW-Madison)

This spring I had the opportunity to take a NASFAA University course in Direct Loans. The 8-week course covered an in-depth study of regulations in the specific topic. The NASFAA University online courses vary in length depending on the amount of material to cover. This course was structured with assigned reading material each week, a few short videos to introduce the material, an online get-together that you could join live or watch later, required discussion questions, one group project, two independent projects, and a weekly quiz.

The most difficult thing for me was finding the time to do all of the required reading. That’s why I think that the course was a great way to go. Even the most self-disciplined of us need timelines and deadlines to prioritize our day. The deadlines for the weekly assignments prevented me from pushing this to the back burner. Another valuable aspect of doing the course rather than a study guide was the chance to ask questions of colleagues and instructors.

Here is my advice to someone considering a course:
  • Allot more time for the reading assignments than you think you will need. There is a lot of material to cover.
  • Pay close attention to the quizzes, the wording used will help you understand how the credential test will be structured.
  • When the class is finished and it’s time to take the test, try the pretest first. That will help you decide if you need more time to study. 
  • Don’t rush through the questions, really take time to read how it is worded.
I’m glad I had the opportunity to take the course. A thorough study of the regulations on a particular topic allows me the opportunity to examine our policies and procedures for direct loans and bring value to my institution by having additional knowledge on compliance for that topic. It is also a valuable benchmark to indicate that I am knowledgeable on a specific financial aid topic. I encourage aid professionals to consider the online courses as a route to becoming credentialed.

Information on NASFAA Credentialing can be found on the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators’ website. The site has a schedule of online courses and self-study guides. In addition, you may be able to attend qualified in-person training events like the MASFAA Summer Institute. Registration has closed for this year, but it's not too early to put it on your calendar for next year!

State Exchange Update: Missouri to Minnesota

(by Angela Karlin, Missouri Representative)

Hello MASFAA friends! I hope you all surviving this exciting time of year. I just returned from the Minnesota conference feeling rejuvenated and with the traditional things to check on list we all make at conferences.

First, I would like to thank MASFAA and MAFAA for the opportunity to travel to Minnesota for their spring conference. The location, Madden’s on Gull Lake, is absolutely beautiful. Even with the occasional rain shower and clouds, the lake was gorgeous and the resort is wonderful.


The conference kicked off with a keynote by Katy Smith, MN teacher of the year from 2011. She had us laughing as she talked about being engaged in the communities we belong to in our personal and professional lives. I took many things away from her talk. I learned about “tater tot hot dish”….hot dish is comparable to a casserole where I live! She also shared the phrase “pleasantly bossy”. Someone asked her if she was a teacher. When she asked why, the person said because you are “pleasantly bossy.” As a take-charge kind of girl and a first-born, I like pleasantly bossy much better than some other words my siblings have used to describe me!

As an early childhood and parent educator, Katy talked about the dreams that her young charges have. She said that she “would give us dreamers” and was excited to meet the people that help them achieve their dreams in the future as financial aid professionals. It is nice to be reminded we do help make dreams come true for our students. We all laughed as she shared stories with us and ended her talk with “silly human tricks”. We divided into groups and nominated a person from each group that possessed a special skill (I use that term loosely) and those folks got to perform their trick on stage. I saw some interesting tricks….let’s just say some things are best left in Minnesota so as to not embarrass some of our friends!

I attended sessions led by colleagues and Kim Wells, Department of Education trainer. I gained new information and added to my to-do list of things to double-check on for SAP, consumer information and verification. During each session, I was reminded of how all of us strive to be compliant with rules and regulations while providing great customer service and getting our students to the finish line.

On Thursday evening, President M.E.G. Calbrese, by royal proclamation (she was wearing a tiara, so royal is the right word!), had us all dress in our finest garb and attend the awards banquet. One group of young ladies had wrist corsages and dubbed the evening MAFAA prom! The meal was wonderful and award recipients were honored by their peers for outstanding service to MAFAA.

My dear friend and colleague, Sara Edwards, was honored with the MAFAA Special Recognition award. The award is for a person affiliated with the financial aid community other than a practicing financial aid administrator who has consistently provided outstanding service to MAFAA in recent years. Sara is from my home state of Missouri and has been a special part of my life and career for the last 13 years. I was so excited to be able to share this evening with her! She had no idea about the award and was speechless at the podium.


Sue Swisher also gave her MASFAA update at the banquet. Sue encouraged us to get involved with the region and shared the conference video for the October conference in Coralville, Iowa.

As I prepare to leave beautiful Gull Lake, I want to thank you all again for the opportunity to attend the conference. I hope to see you all at MASFAA in October! 

 

Monday, May 4, 2015

MASFAA Leader Spotlight: Thomas Ratliff

Welcome to our second in a series of MASFAA Leader Spotlight posts (see our first post here). Throughout the year, we'll try to interview some of the leaders on the MASFAA Executive Council. Next up is MASFAA Delegate at Large, Thomas Ratliff. It's also important to note that Thomas was recently elected as President-Elect for the 2015-2016 MASFAA Executive Council. Thomas is Associate Vice President at Indiana Wesleyan University.



Could you briefly describe the route you took to becoming active in a MASFAA leadership role?

My activities in MASFAA actually started over 20 years ago in SASFAA. Early in my Financial Aid career a mentor encouraged me to invest in my profession to help my peers just as they (and he) had helped me. I agreed and was able to serve SWASFAA as a Conference Daily Newsletter Editor before I moved into the SWASFAA region. There I again engaged as a committee member, chair and eventually served as SWASFAA President. Contributing to MASFAA is very natural for me. I have been allowed to serve MASFAA’s Federal Issues Committee, Conference Program Committee and Professional Development Committee.

Why were you interested in a MASFAA leadership role?

I enjoy helping others succeed.  Helping lead MASFAA is a fulfilling way to make a difference.  In return, I always feel like I receive back as much as I give. 

What recommendations do you have for someone who is interested in holding a MASFAA elected position? Where should they get started? 

Considering the Delegate at Large role is a great beginning.  It offers you a chance to see the internal workings of the association, plus as a coordinator for multiple committees you become much more familiar with the specifics of committee work.

What advice do you have for someone who was just elected to a MASFAA leadership role? 

Read everything you receive from association members right away.  Jump into the conversations giving the best ideas and opinions you have to offer.  Remember you were entrusted to serve by your peers who elected you.  Serve them well with confidence.

What have you learned from your leadership role that you were not expecting? 

I didn’t realize going in that Delegates at Large help to coordinate the activities of multiple committees.  That was a welcomed surprise that has allowed me to become more engaged with MASFAA.  I really appreciate having that opportunity as part of my MASFAA Board experience.

What tips do you have for being an effective leader? 

Listen and care about your people.  Do whatever you can to help ensure their success and personal feelings of accomplishment. 

Any final thoughts? 

It is really great to get to know peers from around our region.  I sincerely recommend getting more involved with your regional association to contribute and grow personally.  MASFAA is worth your energy and time.