Survey: Vital Student Financial Aid Counseling Suffers Due To Burdensome Federal Regulations

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NASFAA Offers 9 Recommendations To Alleviate Pressure On Aid Offices

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“When financial aid offices are strained, it is students who suffer the most,” said Justin Draeger, president and CEO of NASFAA.

Nearly half of financial aid offices surveyed report a moderate to severe shortage in resources needed to do their jobs, according to a new report from the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA). And when time is short, survey respondents say it’s often counseling for students that gets cut -- to the detriment of all.

Many offices that reported a resource shortage in NASFAA’s “2015 Administrative Burden Survey” attribute it to increased work complying with federal regulations, many of which have questionable value for students or taxpayers. Nearly 70 percent said face-to-face counseling was greatly affected as a result. Coupled with the 91 percent who reported that the typical student’s financial literacy understanding is “limited” or “very limited,” it’s clear that administrative burdens on financial aid offices are taking time away from students who desperately need it.

Financial aid is the lifeblood that runs through college campuses helping students access, afford, and complete their degrees. But between complying with federal regulations, packaging aid awards, and counseling students and families, the professionals who oversee it are stretched increasingly thin. About 75 percent of respondents to the survey say the amount of financial aid disbursed has increased over the past five years, and, for nearly the same percentages of respondents, their operating budgets and staff sizes have remained constant or decreased.

Unfortunately, the data point to a multi-year trend, as a similar NASFAA survey in 2010 showed many offices were already facing shortages in 2009-10. To help reverse the trend and free up more time for counseling, NASFAA offers the following nine recommendations:         

  • Use prior-prior year (PPY) income data to determine student aid eligibility to lengthen the time to complete applications.
  • Provide aid administrators the authority to limit loan amounts for certain broad categories of students and require - as needed - additional loan counseling.
  • Eliminate all non-financial aid related questions from the application process.
  • Mandate a federal early commitment program for the federal student aid programs.
  • Review, consolidate, and streamline consumer information requirements to make disclosures more targeted, meaningful, and effective.
  • Simplify the return of Title IV funds (R2T4) process when a student withdraws.            
  • Revamp and make more transparent the process for estimating the burden of new regulations.
  • Include burden estimates in the negotiated rulemaking process.
  • Develop a threshold for the amount of burden the Department of Education can impose.

“When financial aid offices are strained, it is students who suffer the most,” said Justin Draeger, president and CEO of NASFAA. “Colleges that shortchange the financial aid office are ultimately putting their own students at risk. The good news is there are common-sense policy avenues Congress and the Department of Education can take now that would make a difference for professionals and students alike.”

For more information, please see the full “2015 Administrative Burden Survey” and contact us at 202- 785-6959 or news(AT)nasfaa.org.

About NASFAA
The National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA) is a nonprofit membership organization that represents more than 20,000 financial aid professionals at nearly 3,000 colleges, universities, and career schools across the country. NASFAA member institutions serve nine out of every ten undergraduates in the United States. Based in Washington, D.C., NASFAA is the only national association with a primary focus on student aid legislation, regulatory analysis, and training for financial aid administrators. For more information, visit http://www.nasfaa.org.

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Erin Timmons
NASFAA
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