Monday, October 19, 2015

Shield Your Students from Fee-Based Repayment Help

Submitted by: Angela Henry, USA Funds account executive 

Some student loan borrowers are paying third-party organizations to consolidate their federal student loans, enroll in an income-driven repayment plan, or apply for loan forgiveness programs. Many of these students are struggling to keep current on their loans and see this as their only option for relief. 

But the very services for repayment relief that they are paying big bucks for are available for free through the federal government. 

Targeting current and former students It’s no wonder that students are falling prey to these companies, when you see commercials aired on major TV networks and mailers that could be mistaken as being from the U.S. Department of Education. It’s unfortunate that students who pay these companies often are not aware that they can sign up for these same programs at no cost by working directly with their loan servicers. 

Struggling borrowers who are in repayment aren’t the only target. According to some financial professionals, the companies also are contacting students while they still are in school — especially those who, like medical students, are likely to be high earners in the future. 

Students report receiving mailers that offer to help them determine the best repayment plan for their situation or that market ”Obama loan forgiveness,” which the mailer claims is available only if you sign up with that company. Often the mailers look legitimate, but they often contain misleading information. 

Some state attorneys general and agencies like the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau have been working to advise consumers and shut down companies that run illegal debt relief services. A recent email campaign by the Department of Education cautioned borrowers and included a sharable video message from U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. 

Protecting your borrowers As you work with students at your school, you also can help get the message out. You can advise your students about the repayment options available to them and how to contact the financial aid office to learn more.  

How can you help your students? Here are some suggested steps. 

  • Include warnings in your financial aid materialsInclude information on your student loan information Web page or in your publications for student loan borrowers that shares these messages: 
  • “Be wary of student loan assistance scams, expensive loan management services, and private debt consolidators.” 
  • “Some unscrupulous companies offer to handle paperwork for you (for a high fee). The truth is, all of this is easily done yourself.” 
  • “Never give anyone your FSA ID/FAFSA PIN.” 
  • “Nonfederal consolidators may offer lower interest rates, but be sure you read the fine print of those loan terms and understand what repayment programs and benefits you may be giving up by transitioning federal debt to private debt.”
  • Offer financial literacy training to educate your students about making wise choices in money management and student loan repayment. 
  • Keep the information you share with borrowers focused and relevant. Research shows that too much detail can cause a student to tune out the entire message. Focus on the message that there are free options if they are struggling to make a payment — and where to turn if they need help. Caution them about student loan assistance programs that charge a fee, and refer them instead to their servicer or the Federal Student Aid website at www.studentaid. gov. 

2015 Conference Session Handouts

The conference session handouts are still available to download. Several new ones have been added, including Jeff Baker's Federal Update.

Access of the Year Award Winners

Submitted by Steven Foster

The Access committee would like to highlight the winners of the 2nd Access of the Year Award. 

The committee that reviewed and judged the materials had the privilege to review nine noteworthy submissions.

And the winners are....

1st place- Missouri Association of Student Financial Aid Personnel "Money Challenge"

2nd place- University of Wisconsin-Madison  "FASTRACK-BANNER"

2nd place-Moberly Area Community College "College UCAN2"

3rd place-University of Michigan "College Wallet Workshop"

Please join us in wishing our colleagues a job well done on providing financial aid awareness and literacy efforts on and off campus programming across the great region of MASFAA. Each of the winners will be highlighted in an upcoming Access Spotlight post to tell you more about the programs.

Monday, October 12, 2015

2015 MASFAA Awards

The 2015 MASFAA Conference in Coralville, Iowa was not only a wonderful time of learning and networking, but we had the opportunity to honor many MASFAA colleagues for their service to our organization, the financial aid profession, and the students we serve.  Be sure to congratulate them for their achievements.
Mary Horgan, 2014-2015 Awards Chair

Dan Mann, previous recipient and current NASFAA Chair, presented MASFAA’s the Allen W. Purdy Distinguished Service Award, was presented to Susan Fischer, University of Wisconsin-Madison (retired), for her outstanding achievements in the financial aid profession and to MASFAA’s goals. 
Susan Fischer, Allen W. Purdy Distinguished Service Award

Lori Vedder, University of Michigan - Flint, was awarded the Meritorious Service Award for her willingness step in as MASFAA president and representation of the financial aid profession at the national, regional, and state level. 
Lori Vedder, Meritorious Service Award

President, Aaron Steffens, presented the Presidential Award to Val Meyers for her many contributions to MASFAA including her dual role as Treasurer and Michigan Representative during the last year.
Val Meyers, Presidential Award

The Professional Development Committee was also recognized as the Committee of the Year by President, Aaron Steffens, for their commitment to MASFAA and dedication to the 2015 Summer Institute and Leadership Symposium. 

Committee of the Year: Professional Development Committee
Heidi Carl, Chair
Keyimani Alford
Triena Bodart
Pamela Fowler
Nick Prewett
Marvin Smith
Karla Weber
MASFAA acknowledged, Emily Haynam-Janero, Ohio State University, as the 2014/15 Outstanding New Professional within the MASFAA region.
Emily Haynam-Janero, Outstanding New Professional Award

State Leadership Awards were presented, but will be presented again at each state conference by the MASFAA representative.

State Leadership Awards
Jana Albrecht, Illinois
Alicia Frey, Ohio
Chad Olsen, Iowa
Jim Eddy, Michigan
Jana Vanderah, Minnesota

not in photo:
Thomas Ratliff, Indiana
Brice Baumgardner, Missouri
Brian Weingart, West Virginia
Melissa Haberman, Wisconsin


The MASFAA Impact

Submitted by Emily Haynam-JaneroAssistant Director of Compliance and Training, Office of Enrollment Services Student Financial Aid, The Ohio State University

I’m still a toddler as far as my tenure as a financial aid professional goes.  I know that, and appreciate that I still have so much yet to learn.  What I have learned so far, though, is that MASFAA is the main reason I want to stay in this profession.

Most of us didn’t dream of becoming financial aid professionals.  My path to a financial aid office is no different.  I needed to get to a specific geographic location due to a family tragedy so I took my first job in aid, leaving behind my original higher education career path of working in athletic compliance.  I was secretly hoping there would be the opportunity to hop back over to an athletic department at some point, but then I went to the 2014 MASFAA Summer Institute…

I was genuinely inspired by my faculty as a student at Summer Institute.  They not only had a passion to teach us the basics of financial aid but they also went out of their way to get to know us at meals and evening activities.  I had never experienced such collegiality at a conference.  It didn’t matter what school you were from, everyone was in it together.  I immediately felt like I had a “financial aid family,” and it was simply, refreshing.   

As a student at Summer Institute, you also have interaction with the participants and faculty for the MASFAA Leadership Symposium that runs in conjunction with Summer Institute.  Through a crossover session we were educated on MASFAA’s mission and structure.  We were encouraged to fill out the MASFAA volunteer form, as well as volunteer for our state associations.  While I was inspired and wanted to get involved, I immediately thought to myself: “I’m not ready, I don’t know enough but maybe once I get more experience I will try to get involved…”

Inspiration and encouragement from the MASFAA leaders I had as faculty won out over self-doubt in my lack of experience.  I went ahead and filled out volunteer forms for my state and for MASFAA.  I was a self-pay MASFAA member, as the institution I worked for at the time was going through budget cuts and one of those cuts was professional development.  I had to be creative in funding my membership and opportunities to go to conferences, and even took on a part-time job to assist in my endeavors.  Thankfully, MASFAA has a conference scholarship program that also helped to aid my efforts to get involved.

In the last year and a half, MASFAA leaders have blessed me with the opportunity to get involved.  I received the 2014 MASFAA conference scholarship, earned 11 NASFAA credentials, served as faculty for the 2015 MASFAA Summer Institute, presented the 2015 MASFAA pre-conference workshop and received the 2015 MASFAA Outstanding New Professional Award.  While I am truly honored by receiving the award, I am most grateful for the mentors MASFAA has afforded me, as well as the opportunities to learn and grow with my financial aid knowledge through volunteerism.  I am learning as I go, and I am more confident as a financial aid professional because I have an army of MASFAA colleagues that I can reach out to for guidance, and hopefully return the favor at some point. 

So my message to younger financial aid professionals is, jump in!  You will never “feel ready.”  Fill out the volunteer form, and be willing to learn as you go and know that there are many MASFAA colleagues that are ready and willing to help guide you.  Attend conferences, and take a genuine interest in people.  Be willing to do whatever is needed to get the job done, even if that is helping setup tables or fold t-shirts.  It isn’t easy to put yourself out there, but things that are worth it tend not to be easy.  The dividends are not necessarily immediate, but they will show themselves through future opportunities.

My message to veteran financial aid professionals, is that you have no idea the impact you have by getting involved and just saying hello to new professionals.  The group of MASFAA faculty that I had have no idea the impact they had on my career, and by default my life.  I encourage you to consider being faculty for Summer Institute or the Leadership Symposium.  Consider the value in continuing to budget for your employees’ professional development even when faced with challenging economic times, and allowing them to get involved.  You never know who may catch a wave of inspiration, and what benefit that may bring to your office!

So thank you to MASFAA for having the Summer Institute program, and thank you to the faculty who went all in to give myself and my fellow classmates a great experience.  I am looking forward to continuing to learn from all of you, and give back myself as I serve in this upcoming year as co-chair for the professional development committee.  I would be remiss if I didn’t also thank my former institution of Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne (IPFW – not IUPUI Fort Wayne, Nick!), and my current institution, The Ohio State University, for allowing me to get involved and stay involved. 

In closing, I am going to put a plug in for next year’s Summer Institute and Leadership Symposium.  Come fly with the Redbirds and a great lineup of MASFAA faculty to hone in on the basics of financial aid, earn NASFAA credentials and build the next wave of inspiration for the future MASFAA leaders!

2016 MASFAA Summer Institute and Leadership Symposium to be held:
Date:               June 13-17, 2016
Location:         Illinois State University