Friday, December 16, 2011

Christmas is coming!

As we gear up for the Christmas/New Year’s break it’s time to catch our breath and reflect on the past year.  After all, for many of us the next time we step foot in the office it will be a brand new year. 

The 2011 year brought about many changes in our industry, but being the resilient financial aid professionals we are, we continue to find ways to juggle everything that is required of us while still trying to look out for the best interests of our students.

The Christmas season is a time of giving; however, for many of us it’s certainly not the only time that giving occurs.  In fact, I would venture to say that most financial aid officers play Santa Claus all year long.  Think about it for a minute…you give the gift of education every day to thousands of students whose lives would turn out very differently if you were not there to help them along the way.

Every time you award a scholarship or a grant you are giving someone a gift, and along with that gift comes the opportunity for better things to come.  It’s the gift that keeps on giving.  I don’t know about you, but I find it very exciting to know that we play a role helping people fulfill their dreams.  I recall my own days as a Pell Grant and scholarship recipient when I went to college.  Those gifts were the main reason I was able to go to school and my life would be very different today had they not been made available to me.

So, put on some Christmas music and a big smile the next time you start making grant and scholarship awards.  Let out a big “ho ho ho”…go ahead, it’s pretty cathartic!  You may not be dropping down a chimney in the middle of the night, but I would venture to say that your students appreciate the money you give them more than that new gadget under the tree.

I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Brad Barnett
SASFAA President

NASFAA Summary of Student Aid Changes in FY 2012 Budget Bill

The U.S. Congress reached a deal last night to fund the federal student aid programs in 2012-2013.  Some of the highlights of the bill include:

1. Maintaining the $5,550 maximum Pell Grant award for 2012-2013.

2. Duration of Pell Grant eligibility is reduced to the equivalent of twelve (12) full-time semesters.

3. The interest subsidy on student loans during the six-month grace period is eliminated.

4. All other student aid programs (excluding Pell) will be impacted by an across-the-board cut.

The Senate has not voted on the bill, but student aid provisions are not expected to change.

You can read the NASFAA summary of the bill by going to:

Best Wishes for a Merry Christmas and A Happy New Year

Friday, December 9, 2011

Virginia Tech

By now you have probably heard about the tragic shooting at Virginia Tech yesterday.  I have spoken with Dr. Barry Simmons, Financial Aid Director at Tech, and he reported that everyone in their office is okay.

As you can imagine the event brought up many bad memories and mixed emotions, but we know the students and staff at Virginia Tech are strong and will get through this.  Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Virginia Tech community and our friends and colleagues in the Office of University Scholarships and Financial Aid.

Brad Barnett
SASFAA President

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Georgia State Report

Greetings from the Peach State!             
The Georgia folks have been very busy this fall. On October 19, 2011 I was honored to take part in the EASFAA/SASFAA Joint Legislative briefing.  I represented the State of Georgia with Tracy Ireland from the Georgia Student Finance Commission.   Tracy serves on the GASFAA Board as our State Legislative Relations Chair. Legislative aides from our states were invited to come and meet us and learn about the issues facing the student financial aid community. Bonnie Joerschke, GASFAA’s Federal Legislative Affairs Chair, sent invitations to all of the aides working for Georgia’s Senators and Congressmen. The day started with a casual mixer where we could get to know the aides as well as the other GASFAA representatives. We then had a panel discussion followed by a question and answer session. While in Washington I had the opportunity to meet individually with Georgia aides working for: Senator Saxby Chambliss, Congressman Jack Kingston, District 1, Congressman Rob Woodall, District 7, Congressman John Barrow, District 12, and Congressman David Scott, District 13. Our main topic of discussion was funding the Federal Pell Grant program. I hope that the work we did while in Washington has some impact in the upcoming budget decisions.
GASFAA’s Professional Development Committee hosted the New Aid Officers Workshop at Central Georgia Technical College in October. They used NASFAA’s CORE Training Materials. There were 96 financial aid officers in attendance which far surpassed expectations. On January 31 and February 1 GASFAA’s PDC will host one day workshops on verification and Satisfactory Academic Progress. The verification session will be led by David Bartnicki from the Department of Education and the SAP session will be led by GASFAA’s President-Elect, Philip Hawkins using NASFAA’s SAP training materials. The January 31 session will be held at Central Georgia Technical College in Macon and the February 1 session will be held at Athens Technical College in Athens.
Felicia Ailster and the Diversity Committee took part in the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk at Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta on October 29. The walk raised over $1 million for the American Cancer Society. Lori Whitaker and the Community Action Committee took part in The Bert Show’s (Atlanta radio station) Big Thank You, an initiative to send handwritten thank you notes to all service members stationed overseas, to be delivered on Thanksgiving Day. Big Thank You collected over half a million letters to send to the troops.
GASFAA’s various committees have been hard at work. Cathy Crawley and the Newsletter Committee put out a great issue of the GASFAA Grapevine. She is also researching the option of moving to a blog format like SASFAA. Patrick Harris and the Electronic Services Committee are working with ATAC to redo the current web page and is looking into other hosting options. Susan Little and the Leadership Development Committee and Jody Darby and the Program Committee have held their first meetings to get things rolling for the May 2012 conference. Pat Barton and the Membership Committee surveyed the membership and are currently analyzing results to find what our membership needs from GASFAA and what will cause them to renew. Treasurer Amy Moser has been looking at electronic payment options for GASFAA membership and conferences. Budget and Finance Chair Gary Mann has kept our CDs up to date and has been working with Edward Jones to ensure that all of our investment paperwork is in order. Vendor Sponsor Coordinator Kimberly Jordan and I have been soliciting sponsorship for  ourorganization. Past President Doug Tanner and his committee are seeking qualified people to run for elected office this upcoming year. President Elect Philip Hawkins and his committee have started work on GASFAA’s next strategic plan.  I could not be more proud of the Executive Board and the hard work they are doing.
GASFAA is very proud to be selected as the SASFAA 2013 Conference site. President-Elect Hawkins is already planning on how we can help conference chair Paul Mittelhammer make it an amazing 50th Anniversary conference. We hope to see y’all there!
Respectfully submitted by,
Nancy Ferguson
GASFAA President

What Happens With the Failure of the Super Committee?

The Budget Control Act was signed into law on August 2nd, 2011.  This Act increased the debt ceiling by $2.4 trillion.  How did this affect student aid programs?

1)      Elimination of in-school interest subsidy for graduate and professional students (no more sub!)
2)      Additional $17 billion for Pell for FY12 and FY13
3)      Elimination of Direct Loan repayment incentives
Also created the 12 member Super Committee tasked to come up with legislation creating at least $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction by November 23rd.

To see how the effects of sequestration (automatic spending cuts) will affect the Federal Student Aid programs, click on the following link:


Congressional aides are reporting that forgoing any unforeseen circumstances, the Super Committee will announce TODAY their failure to reach a deficit agreement deal.  Even IF a deal is reached, the CBO (Congressional Budget Office) would have to review the legislation prior to being sent to Congress.

Nonexempt, discretionary programs would be reduced by an estimated 7.8% across the board cut according to the Congressional Budget Office.  Pell is exempt from any across the board cut.  These cuts would go into effect in FY13 – January 2013 AFTER the 2012 election process.

Funding for the U.S. Department of Education would be reduced by $3.54 billion as a result of sequestration.

SEOG, FWS, and Federal TRIO programs and GEAR UP would see a total of $221.8 million in cuts, affecting millions of students.


As a result of the looming Super Committee’s failure, it is likely they will dismantle the Committee and discontinue negotiations.  Any failure to meet the November 23rd deadline will revoke the power given to the Committee to “protect their-debt-reduction package from Congressional procedures to block legislation.”

Stay tuned for more on As the Financial Aid World Turns…

Submitted by the SASFAA Legislative Relations Committee

Congress Approves Bill to Fund Federal Programs Through December 16

On Thursday November 17th Congress approved a "minibus" appropriations measure that combines FY12 Agriculture, Commerce-Justice-Science, and Transportation-Housing and Urban Development spending bills.

For those federal agencies whose current year appropriations bills have yet to be approved, Congress approved a short-term funding extension through December 16th.  This includes the Department of Education.

H.R. 2112 was first approved in the House and later by the Senate on Thursday.  H.R. 2112 has been forwarded to President Obama for his signature.

Attempts to pass a second "minibus” bill have come to halt in the Senate. Leaders have been unable to successfully agree on terms to combine State and foreign operations and financial services and general government appropriations bills to the Energy and water development appropriations bill.

Submitted by Amy Berrier
SASFAA Secretary

No Deal May Be Announced By Super Committee

Members of the Super Committee (12 Congressional Leaders) were charged with trying to arrive at $1.2 trillion in budget cuts.  Congressional sources indicate that no deal will be reached.  Aides are trying to focus on how to announce to the nation that no deal has been reached.

A senior Democratic aide has indicated that talks are over to reach a deficit reduction agreement.  No final decision has been made, however, barring an unforeseen breakthrough, the "no-deal" announcement is looming.

The Congressional Super Committee was tasked with proposing ways to reduce deficits by at least $1.2 trillion over the next 10 years to stave off automatic spending cuts, known as a sequester.  7 out of the 12 Super Committee members would have to approve a deficit reduction plan in order to send it to the both houses of Congress in the form of legislation.

Then both chambers of Congress would vote on the legislation without amendment by December 23rd.  For the legislation to pass, a simple majority would be required in each chamber of Congress.
Failure to pass any agreement could result in $1.2 trillion in automatic spending cuts across much of the federal budget starting in 2013, evenly divided between defense and non-defense spending. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta warned Congress this week that such cuts could cripple the American military establishment.

Since Congress made the law governing the sequester, it can also amend or repeal it, as some lawmakers are suggesting.

Submitted by SASFAA Legislative Relations Committee