Monday, October 31, 2016

From Missouri to West Virginia: State Exchange Experience

Last week I had the privilege to travel to West Virginia for the WVASFAA Conference! Thank you, MASFAA and WVASFAA for making this a possibility through the state exchange program. I must say that West Virginia is gorgeous during this time of year. Many pretty fall colors and very fitting to the conference theme, Seasons of Change, something of which is all too familiar to a financial aid professional. 

The conference kicked off with a Financial Aid Trivia that incorporated many different game shows. I absolutely enjoyed the answer to the first question, ‘It Depends.’ So many times in our world, rightfully so, the first thought is it depends. Following this, Brian Weingart from the WV Higher Education Policy Commission gave the state update and I must admit that West Virginia has implemented a clever idea to encourage NASFAA Core training. Hey Missouri, they are making their way to the top in credentials! As of the conference, West Virginia was third however I know many of my new friends attended training two days prior to this conference. They may surprise us and take the lead soon.  

Many of the conference sessions were geared toward change. Working with Millennials, being the Gen Xer that I am, this is an ever important change for me. They also held a roundtable session for PPY and PJs. This is on the top of every financial aid professionals mind currently and probably one of our biggest changes in recent history. Additionally many of us have seen an increase in veterans on our campuses. Sandy Corwin from Fairmont State University shared how their campus created a Green Zone for their veterans. Each faculty/staff person following training may post a Green Zone sticker outside their office door. This makes for a safe place for a veteran to go to someone for assistance or have someone to lean on or just talk with during tough times. I was in complete awe with how simple a program could be and yet make such a big impact for our veterans who are returning to a college campus.  

We heard from Special Agent, Erik Wolfson. He spoke about investigating student aid fraud and abuse and shared little things to be mindful of when processing student aid. We also had other sessions from which to choose regarding Student Loan Repayment Plans, Program Reviews, Title IX, and Easy Fixes to Crisis Proof Your Retirement to name a few.  

All in all, my visit was wonderful. I have many new ideas to take back to my state association. Being an introvert, it was difficult knowing that I was attending a conference and knew no one in advance. I thank you West Virginia for welcoming me and being very friendly. I have made many knew friends with whom I hope to see at future MASFAA conferences!  

Thank you! 
Kerry Hallahan 
2017 MASFAP President-Elect 

PS: I must share the awesome gift in which the WVASFAA Executive Board gave to me. Each of them signed about where their institution is located in West Virginia. This is going on the wall in my office and is such a great memory of my exchange to West Virginia!

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Want to Make Something Great?

Have you ever had that one project you really wanted to do, but you didn’t feel like you had quite enough resources to make it happen as quickly as you’d like?  But if you got what you needed to make it happen, you just know it would be great!

That’s kind of what we feel with a terrific project our Communications and Electronic Initiatives Committee is doing.  They have taken on the ambitious challenge of setting up a totally new web presence for MASFAA.  Using a tool called Wild Apricot, this strong team has started diving in to restructure and design our new MASFAA website from scratch.  It’s a meaningful thing that we are all eager to see succeed this year.  There’s plenty of work to be done and having some additional MASFAA members join in would make things flow even better. 

Do you like being part of a team that is making something special happen?  Would you enjoy being able to help launch something that will be noticed for a long time?  Here’s your chance.  Complete a Volunteer Form today and mark that you want to be a part of the Communications/Electronic Initiatives Committee for 2016-2017. 

Thomas Ratliff
MASFAA President

***Note, the Communications and Electronic Initiatives Committee is having their first committee meeting next week, so please volunteer today!

Monday, October 17, 2016

Leadership Symposium Testimonial - #MASFAAMEUP


When the ISFAA Executive Board asked me if I would like to participate in the MASFAA Leadership Symposium I really had no idea what to expect.  I thought I would just be going to an event that would be a great place to network with other leaders in the financial aid world.  What I took away from the Leadership Symposium was much more!

I went in to this thinking, “What can I learn, I have been in a leadership role in financial aid for nearly seven years?” I learned that you can never stop learning to be a good leader.  From the very first project I began understanding this was going to be more useful than I gave it credit. On Tuesday morning when we worked on “Building the Leadership Foundation” I learned that almost everyone in the room had the same worries, hopes, fears, and desire to accomplish their dreams.  Learning how to incorporate social media into networking, and continuously educating myself in the financial aid world was something new for me.

I gained valuable resources from this experience.  The connections I have made through this symposium have already helped me answer questions back at the office.  Questions like how are other offices gearing up for prior/prior, and how are other colleges/universities preparing for new overtime rules that go into effect December 1, 2016. 

What I gained most though was invaluable insight.  I learned just as much if not more from my experience from those individuals who were aspiring to be leaders in the financial aid field.  I was able to take away what those who I lead may be thinking but afraid to share.  I took away what those aspiring leaders had to say and asked my employees their thoughts on the issues.  I would recommend anyone whether they have been in financial aid for a year or a decade, if they aspire to be leader or have been a leader for years to attend these types of symposiums because the take away is priceless. 

This post was submitted by Ron Herrell, Director of Financial Aid, Ivy Tech Community College North Central/Northwest

My First Marvelous Awesome Stunning Fantastic Amazing Awe-inspiring (MASFAA) Conference

You know when you’re telling a non-financial aid person a hilarious story about a student (complying with FERPA regulations, of course) and you realize about half-way through that they won’t think it’s funny? Or you come up with that perfect joke about the FAFSA that you ramble to your mom, and she does that pity chuckle because she doesn’t want to hurt your feelings?

Welcome to my life.

The 2016 MASFAA Conference was my first financial aid conference ever. I was anxious and not sure what to expect. What if no one talks to me? What if I’m not familiar with some of the things in the sessions? During the hot topics speed-dating, my table had a great conversation about PJs and prior-prior year. We discussed how our offices were planning on handling the changes, and what we were expecting things to look like. All of my hilarious student stories were answered with even crazier scenarios from other institutions. It was wonderful to speak FA language all week and have every single person understand. It was awesome (and easy!) to meet new people and connect over this thing everyone in the room had in common: financial aid.

When I walked into my first interest session, I realized the conference is kind of like a family reunion. Except unlike that one weird family reunion you went to that one time with your first boyfriend/girlfriend, everyone here was friendly, welcoming, and they all want to talk to you! You can literally turn to the person sitting next to you at anytime and start a conversation. The people are what make financial aid so great, and at the MASFAA Conference, I met some marvelous awesome stunning fantastic amazing awe-inspiring people. Everyone here speaks the same language and we all have a passion to help students.

And don’t worry, the conference isn’t all work and no play. Going into the week, I didn’t think I would see my boss in shorts (or in a wig and a dress for that matter…), watch someone literally break their leg, meet Ted Malone (have you seen this guy dance?!), learn what an Irish car bomb is, and sing along to Nelly until midnight with some amazing financial aid administrators (including Ted, of course).

If you have never attended a MASFAA Conference, you gotta go! You will meet so many amazing people, make friends, find mentors, and learn a ton! If finances prevent you from attending, I would encourage you to apply for the MASFAA Conference Scholarship. This scholarship covers your full conference costs, and without this scholarship, I would not have been able to attend and take advantage of this amazing opportunity.

And guess what? All of your FAFSA jokes will kill it with this crowd.

This post submitted by Keri Gilbert, Financial Aid Advisor at the University of Missouri.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Memo from Justin Draeger - Follow Up on IRS Confirmation of Nonfiling Letter

During the MASFAA conference, a member from a community college raised the concern that applicants and parents who did not file a 2015 tax return and who are selected for verification for 2017-2018 will be required to obtain a letter from the IRS confirming that they did not file.  In his presentation, Jeff Baker said that he did not know if the IRS is ready for the volume this will generate.  As a community college aid director, this member justifiably feels that this new requirement adds a barrier and delay for poor students trying to obtain the funding they need for 2017-2018. He asked if we had and if we will apply any pressure on the Department to work with the IRS on creating a process for obtaining proof of non-filing that is easy to use and provides a timely response.

I went back to DC and conferred with the NASFAA policy team and they reminded me that we did object to that requirement in the spring when they first announced it, but we were rebuffed by ED because the data they had for 2014-15 showed that nearly 15% of parents and 17% of students who reported that they did not file, actually did file. ED felt that that was a lot of apps and a lot of possible incorrect amounts. Of course the bigger question is whether any of those changes resulted in any changes in EFC (since most Pell students are zero EFC regardless). On Friday we sent another note over to ED on this and haven’t heard back just yet. We did get a commitment previously that they would re-look at this as the data came in. We also suggested that it would be best if the non-filing applicant could use the DRT at the time of application to certify that they didn’t file taxes, so then they wouldn’t have to go through the mostly manual IRS process to request a certification on non-filing later if they were selected for verification.

We’ll keep the pressure on and think schools should do the same.


Monday, October 10, 2016

President's Welcome to 16-17


We have started a new year and your 2016-2017 MASFAA Board welcomes you to jump in with us as we build upon our great history of serving peers and students within our nine great states.  Right now, today, we have opportunities for you to contribute and grow within your regional Financial Aid association.
If you are new to MASFAA, become an active participant.  Attend our Summer Institute or Leadership Symposium and you will grow.
If you are a seasoned professional, share your expertise and help us train.
If you want to help students, jump into our advocacy efforts.
If you have something to say, contribute to the MASFAA Blog.
If you are an associate member, please keep helping us succeed.  We need your insights, creativity, ideas and products so we can do our best.
If you are from around THE state of Ohio, please help with our 2017 Conference Local Arrangements.
If you can teach, develop a conference session.
If you’re technologically savvy and secretly want to go Wild, help us build our new website using Wild Apricot. (contact Jayme Jarrett)

If you have heart, join a MASFAA committee.
If you have vision, run for a MASFAA office.
If you have breath, Make Every Moment Count in all aspects of your life.  For yourself.  Your family.  Your friends.  Your work.  Your profession.
I encourage you to live abundantly in every aspect of your life, including your professional contributions.  Make Every Moment Count in everything, including MASFAA.

-          Thomas Ratliff, MASFAA President 2016-17

2017-18 Officer Nomination Form Available

While not intended to parallel the changes to the FAFSA timeline, it seems that having the MASFAA Officer Nomination Form available in October is doing just that.  This form is now available on the MASFAA website and will remain open until the end of January.  All we have done is extend the time for making nominations as the deadline for nominations is similar to what it has been in the past.  The board made this move so that the form would be available during its annual conference.  

The conference is (was!) an ideal time to identify and visit with potential nominees as well as garner publicity for the overall process.  Please take a few moments to encourage a colleague to run or consider running for a position yourself.  It is your duty as a member to submit nominations.  Nominations are currently being sought for President-Elect (3 year term), Vice President (2 year term) and two Delegate-at-Large positions (2 year term). 

Have someone to nominate?  Fill out the survey form here!  Questions?  Contact Nominations and Elections Chair (and current Past-President) Sue Swisher at 

Monday, October 3, 2016

What is Communications & Electronic Initiatives? (and how you can help!)

Hello from beautiful Kansas City! Conference has gotten off to a wonderful start, we’ve laughed, we’ve cried, we’ve handed out some awards, and I encourage you to check out MASFAA’s twitter account (@masfaaweb) if you don’t already follow the twitter to see some of yesterday’s action.  You can also follow other conference attendees’ tweets at #mymasfaa to see what’s happening.

The Communications and Electronic Initiatives Committee is gearing up for a big year, and we’re looking for a few brave souls to help us with our mission.  Curious about that long title and what we really do?  Right now, you’re reading part of it.  The blog is one of our main functions – making sure the membership stays informed of what MASFAA is doing through communication in a timely fashion through blog articles, and we also solicit other articles we think the membership would enjoy (think the Leadership Spotlights or Zach’s Technology in the Office post).

Speaking of timely communication, the twitter account is another one of the ways that the committee gets the word out to the members about what’s going on – either in the association or in the financial aid world at large.  We know that some folks would prefer to read a blog and don’t really do the twitter thing, and some folks really tweet it up – that way, people have options when it comes to us putting information out and ways for people to communicate back to the association.

There’s also a Facebook group for MASFAA – if you’re a part of it, awesome!  One of the tasks this committee has been charged with is converting that from a closed group to a “like” page, so that’s something that we’ll be taking on this year.  Work on that has already begun, but with all of the other tasks we have, it’s not an overnight switch.

Ah, yes. “Other tasks.”  If you like website work…here’s where you come in!  Our committee is also in charge of the MASFAA website, and we’re going to be doing some WORK to that this year.  I would LOVE to have some folks help out with that – we’re going to be doing some really rewarding work.

Please feel free to contact me with questions about the committee – I’m happy to answer anything.  Definitely volunteer to help us have a successful year in 16-17!

Jayme Jarrett,
Chair, Communications & Electronic Initiatives