Monday, June 5, 2017

No Sleep ‘Till (DUM DUM DUM DUMMMMM) IRS Data Retrieval!*

*Read to the tune of the Beastie Boys “No Sleep Till Brooklyn”

          The field of financial aid is filled with selfless people. We work hard to provide access and affordability in higher education, and while we all know what we signed up for (or maybe you didn’t, but you sure know now!), we forget that sometimes students can be grumpy, stressed, or just plain mean. Thank yous are rare from students, but we love what we do, and have a passion to make the financial aid process better (even if we complain endlessly to our significant others and/or mom). This has never been as prevalent as the last six or so months when this crazy, amazing financial aid horde banded together in the name of advocacy. The advocacy efforts made by financial aid administrators have been amazing to behold. Until this advocacy mob swept across the nation, I thought financial aid was static. Changes were made at the federal level, and then immediately embraced by our field without any fight. And then, there was a change. The IRS Data Retrieval Tool went down with no warning or information, but verification requirements stayed the same. We struggled to help students complete verification, and sent so many 4506-Ts that we could fill the form out in our sleep (get that line 5 filled in, baby!). I had phone calls with parents sobbing because they just didn’t know how they would be able to get us their tax return transcript, but their student had a 399 code with a deadline before aid would be cancelled. As these stories came up across the country, it was like a jet engine revving up. Calls to action were sent out across the country. #IRSDRT was tweeted out. I had students writing letters to their congressmen and women. I was writing letters, everybody was writing letters! Calls were made and we stood up as a profession and refused to let these burdens weigh on our students. 
            And let me tell you, before I realized that I could participate in this advocacy mob, I had NO interest in politics, and honestly, I was a little sketchy on how the government worked… Fifth grade was so long ago! But I jumped in, got the basics from listening to other people talk, said a few stupid things in big groups (once I asked how many Senators there are…SO embarrassing), but I have learned a ton in just the last few months about how not only legislation is proposed and passed, but also the best ways to advocate for my students. It starts with those stories! All of those people we have met, all of those students and families we have helped, and all of those ridiculous issues we have encountered really open legislators eyes to what we deal with on a daily basis. It also gives our positions and ideas clout: this needs to be changed because it is negatively impacting my students in this way, etc. And look what we accomplished! Getting to the bottom of the IRS DRT shutdown. Verification relief. Year-round Pell. I give credit to my mob friends with a shout out to our NASFAA godfather! Advocacy on the behalf of our students and their families has made a huge difference, and I am excited to see this horde of financial aid administrators continue to improve the federal aid process.

            Come join the advocacy mob! Reach out to your Legislative Committee. Google “how the government works” (or at least watch this quick video even if it’s a little outdated:).
 Read NASFAA’s daily newsletter. Ask questions. Write letters. Make calls. And definitely don’t sleep until the DRT is back online.

Post written by Keri Gilbert, Financial Aid Advisor at University of Missouri-Columbia
Keri was the recipient of the NASFAA regional scholarship - and as you can see, she's still "Weirdly Passionate." -jj

1 comment:

  1. Great blog, Keri! So glad to have FAAs like you doing great advocacy work! Keep it up! Gena


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