November 14th, 2017
GC among representatives fighting for financial aid on Capitol Hill
On Wednesday, October 25th the DE-DC-MD Association of Financial Aid Administrators Federal Relation Committee travel to Capitol Hill to speak on behalf of Student Financial Aid. Eleven individuals from throughout the association traveled to the nation’s capital to represent all levels of institutions and non-profit organizations.
"Overall, I was very encouraged with our efforts on Capitol Hill and unlike previous visits, where everything we brought to the table as a concern was shot down as a non-issue, this year our ideas were welcomed," stated Andrew Harvey, of Garrett College. "All aides said they would personally abreast their ‘bosses’ to the issues."
Federal relation committee members include: Andrew Harvey (Garrett College: McHenry, MD), Angela Hovatter (Frostburg State University: Frostburg, MD), James Roye (University of Maryland University College: Largo, MD), Meredith Schor (The George Washington University School of Medicine: Washington, DC), Pat Shoemaker (Anne Arundel Community College: Arnold, MD), Megan Cleary (The George Washington University School of Medicine: Washington, DC), Ashtin Jeney (medical student at The George Washington University School of Medicine: Washington, DC), Tara Carew (Anne Arundel Community College: Arnold, MD), Jennifer Sandler (University of Maryland Baltimore County: Catonsville, MD), Melanie Mason (Stevenson University: Stevenson, MD) Fawn Leipold (Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine: Baltimore, MD), James Rose (Reach4Success: Washington, DC).
"We conducted 25 appointments with Congressional Legislative Aides overseeing higher education," stated Jennifer Sandler, ‘seventeen of those appointments were with House Representatives and eight were with Senate members. In addition to the 25 appointments, the committee published a briefing document outlining key points of attention which were distributed to 48 additional offices."
"The focus was on members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee," she stated, "and the House Education & Workforce committee, as well as, the House Appropriations Committee."
The following issues were identified and championed by the committee: (1) making the Higher Education Act reauthorization a priority, (2) codifying prior-prior year tax information for FAFSA completion, (3) simplifying direct loan repayment plans, (4) solidifying the footing and fixing issues with public service loan forgiveness, (5) eliminating required disclosures that are not directly related to federal student aid but are tied to Title IV funding, and (6) strengthening need based aid focusing on the funding of the Federal Pell Grant.
Andrew Harvey, representing Garrett College, met with Robert Moran, who serves as the Education Policy Director for the HELP Committee and directly for its Chairman Senator Lamar Alexander. Moran provided updates to the group on the following areas: reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, simplification of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), suggestions on student grant funding, and student loan repayment options.
"Mr. Moran was very engaging and spoke directly to each of our points of concern. Many areas discussed were topics and issues already on the radar of concern for the Senator, yet several issues were even new to Mr. Moran," Harvey stated.
Pictured at the Department of Education Federal Student Aid headquarters at Capitol Hill advocating for student financial aid are members of the DC-DE-MD Association of Financial Aid Administrators Federal Relation Committee. From left to right are: Jennifer Sandler, University of Maryland Baltimore County; Andrew Harvey, Garrett College; Melanie Mason, Stevenson University; James Roye, University of Maryland University College, and Angie Hovatter of Frostburg State University.
"According to him, the Senator has plans to begin attacking Higher Education Act reauthorization in late fall with hopes of having the bill going before the full Senate in spring. His focus is also on simplification. Simplification from the FAFSA through repayment."
Public service loan forgiveness, the transference of information via the IRS data retrieval tool, and the lack of Pell charts for the 2018/2019 year were the next areas of concern for the committee.
Harvey and members met with the Department of Education Federal Student Aid (FSA) headquarters with Dr. Charles Patterson, Senior Advisor for Executive Outreach; Ian Foss, Policy Liaison & Implementation; and Jeff Appel, Undersecretary of Education for Postsecondary Student Aid Policy.
Dr. Patterson and his team discussed the concern of the servicers with the merger of Nelnet and Great Lakes in terms of borrower division of new loan volume. The team also discussed the companies out there acting as official companies to help students with loan debt but were not paying the loans back.
"He warned our group that he expects these companies to next start approaching schools to partner with them and that schools will think they are legit companies," Harvey explained. "FSA has already setup a new feedback section to report such activities to. I ensured them I would pass along this information at our next annual conference coming up in a few short weeks."
Afternoon visits by the committee were conducted on the house side delivering policy briefs and appointments with members of the House Committee on education and workforce.
"Great appointments were held with Allison Smith with Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici’s (OR) office, Jennifer Wise with Congressman David P. Roe (TN) and Ian Whitson from Congressman David Rouzer (NC) office," said Melanie Mason. "All three appointments were great and open dialogues were had with members on both sides of the isle."
She continued in that, "they all agreed that Chairwoman Foxx (like Senator Alexander) would like to see Higher Education reform added to agenda in the very near future. The aides were very up to speed already on the issues with Higher Education and were sympathetic to our concerns for our students."Harvey said as with all visits to the Hill, invitations were extended by committee members for legislative officials to come and see the financial aid offices on a day-to-day basis, as the Tri-State schools are closer than their '‘'home-districts'’.
"We leave the door open to continue dialogue should they have questions," he said. "One resistance point we met was on pell funding, which is why we continue to make these visits and to invest time and energy into the policy paper."