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  • Monday, March 06, 2017 1:17 PM | Leighanne Denja (Administrator)

    Michigan Governor Rick Snyder’s 2018 Budget Proposal was announced on February 8, 2017.  Highlights of the Governor’s Budget Recommendations as they relate to Michigan Financial Aid Programs are summarized below:

    1.    A total of $11 million in new funding is provided to increase the Michigan Competitive Scholarship and the Michigan Tuition Grant programs. This brings total funding for the programs to $64.4 million, an increase of 21 percent. The additional funding will increase the maximum per-student annual awards to $1,000 for the Michigan Competitive Scholarship and $2,000 for the Michigan Tuition Grant. The awards are projected to support a combined 46,000 students in fiscal year 2018.
    2.    The Tuition Incentive Program (TIP) budget includes a total of $58.3 million, an increase of $5.3 million. The program is projected to support 18,500 students in fiscal year 2018. Beginning in fiscal year 2019, the governor recommends capping TIP reimbursements at public universities to double the average community college in-district tuition rate in an effort to reduce the disparities of award amounts across colleges and universities.
    3.    Funding for a pilot of the Independent Part-Time Student Grants programs is recommended at $2 million. This program targets part-time adult students at community colleges who have completed at least 15 credit hours of postsecondary coursework and are near completion of a degree or other credential. The pilot will measure student success outcomes at each participating community college.

    MSFAA Legislative Committee will provide updated budget information as it is received.

  • Thursday, February 09, 2017 10:54 AM | Leighanne Denja (Administrator)

    Greeting MSFAA!

    I just wanted to take a few minutes and welcome you as a 2017 MSFAA member! If you are new here, we are glad to have you and look forward to getting to know you over the next year. If you are a returning member, we are happy to have you back with us for another great year.

    MSFAA has a very exciting year ahead! Most notably, our association will turn 50 years old in December of 2017 and we will celebrate our golden anniversary next January at our winter conference at The Henry in Dearborn. This is a huge milestone for MSFAA. It offers us a chance to reflect on our history as an association, the history of federal student aid in this country and to celebrate all of our accomplishments and leaders along the way.

    To support the Conference Program and Conference Site Committees in the planning of the 50th Anniversary Celebration I have added a special 50th Anniversary Task Force to the Executive Board this year. Our task force is co-chaired by Diane Fleming, a retiree and MSFAA past-president, and by Stephanie Petsch, a long time board member, of Eastern Michigan University. They will be recruiting MSFAA members to join their committee over the next few months and I encourage you to reach out to them if you are interested in planning the 50th Anniversary celebration. It’s going to be a fun event and I’m really looking forward to seeing what the task force comes up with and celebrating with all of you next year.

    Please mark your calendars for the MSFAA Summer Conference as well! You might notice the dates are a bit earlier this year. This was by design! The NASFAA Conference is scheduled for late June and we wanted offices to be able to staff accordingly to take advantage of all the great financial aid trainings this summer. We will gather June 11-14 at Shanty Creek Resort in Bellaire and hope to see you there. Please consider submitting a session proposal to our Conference Program Committee for consideration. Sharing the best practices of our members at MSFAA conferences is what it’s all about!

    Also, look for updates on our Leaders of Tomorrow participants this year. These future leaders have applied to the program to enhance their skills and develop their own leadership style. MSFAA is investing in them this year and we are excited to see their progress.

    Lastly, if you are interested in getting involved in MSFAA, please reach out to us. Our Membership co-chairs, Sarah Krueger and Candace Henry-Shroeder, would be happy to talk to you about the many opportunities there are to get involved.

    If you ever want to chat, please feel free to email me at I’m always happy to hear from MSFAA members.

    Think spring!

    Kelly Schneider

    2017 MSFAA President

  • Friday, February 03, 2017 3:47 PM | Leighanne Denja (Administrator)

    Three Institutional Factors Impacting Student Attrition
    By Angela Henry – Student Connections

    In addition to the primary research we conduct, such as through our work with students and academic experts on our Advisory Boards, Student Connections regularly reviews findings from around the industry. Recently, we examined factors impacting student retention at colleges and universities in the United States. 

    Financial aid and resources available It’s no surprise that students most commonly abandon their pursuit of higher education because of money.  In fact, ACT identifies the amount of financial aid available to students as the number one factor contributing to student attrition rates for all types of colleges and universities. (Wesley R. Habley and Randy McClanahan, “What Works in Student Retention?” ACT, 2004, p. 10). Financial aid services is also listed among the top factors.  Further, Ruffalo Noel Levitz reports that the high cost of schooling, an obligation to obtain full-time employment because of financial need, personal emergencies and uncertainty about the return on investment from a college education all contribute to student attrition (“2016 National Report:  Freshman Motivations to Complete College,” Ruffalo Noel Levitz, 2016, p. 4).

    Choosing the right school and program In addition to finances, uninformed decisions regarding which institution to attend and a poor understanding of the matriculation process appear to be major factors in student attrition.  The Institute for Higher Education Policy reports that choosing which institution to attend is a complicated and confusing process, especially for first-generation and non-traditional students (Tiffane Cochran and Ann Coles, “Maximizing the College Choice Process to Increase Fit & Match for Underserved Students,” Institute For Higher Education Policy, 2011, p. 3). These students often do not have the background or access to tools that will help them fully consider the different pathways to the achievement of their educational goals. Once they do select an institution, they are often challenged by admission and financial aid processes.  These factors often lead to students not selecting the institution that would best meet their individual needs and subsequently dropping out before they achieve their educational goals.

    Lack of involvement and engagement The third institutional factor impacting student attrition is lack of student involvement in campus life.  According to the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE), the more involved students are with their institutions, the more invested they are in their education.  NSSE also has identified a correlation between student involvement and higher grades and completion rates.  It makes sense that feelings of safety and belonging can go a long way toward keeping students engaged and working toward their educational goals.

    The good news in these variables lies in what they share in common: They are under institutional influence. There are steps you can take today at your school to improve student engagement, understanding of enrollment requirements and campus culture, and financial literacy. In fact, the more you consider these seemingly disparate areas, the more apparent it becomes that they are integrated aspects of one unifying goal: student success. You may find you have little control over one area. However, by seizing opportunities to make a positive difference in others, you can shape the common outcome they produce. 

  • Monday, January 09, 2017 4:52 PM | Chandra Owen (Administrator)

    MSFAA Leadership Committee announces the 2017 Leadership Development Academy!

    Are you interested in taking your professional development to the next level? MSFAA's Leadership Development Academy can help. Please complete the application and submit by close of business on Friday, January 20, 2017.

    Apply Here!

    Shashanta S. James
    MSFAA Leadership Committee

  • Monday, December 19, 2016 3:14 PM | Chandra Owen (Administrator)

    When perception equals reality, low-income students can miss out on opportunities 

    Written By Angela Henry – Student Connections, a USA Funds company

    Over the past few months, I’ve been speaking with many colleagues about the nonacademic barriers to student success, and I often reference the 2016 FAFSA completion data. Of particular interest is the fact that the national FAFSA completion rate for high school seniors fell from 40.9 percent to 39.6 percent and that only five states – Oregon, West Virginia, Utah, North Carolina and Texas saw an increase in completion.

    Low-income students’ misconceptions about financial aid
    In October 2016, the National College Access Network (NCAN) released a
    report that examined the mindset of low-income students about their financial aid eligibility. It identifies some of the reasons that rate may be low, particularly for this population of students. The report begins by noting a 2011-12 National Postsecondary Student Aid Survey. The survey asked students to indicate why they hadn’t applied for aid, and 44.7 percent said it was because they did not believe they were eligible. But what is this belief based on?

    The report goes on to explore current attitudes and behaviors toward financial aid among low-income students. It concludes that the belief that they are ineligible for aid often masks a troubling reality: they do not know whether or not they are eligible. These students are less likely to pursue aid opportunities. Because these findings have major implications for students and schools, they should help schools shape outreach strategies.

    Getting resources to the students who need them
    This is confirmed elsewhere in the study, where data show that, despite an abundance of information about student aid, the knowledge is not reaching the students who most need it. For example, 64 percent of the students who did not apply for aid reported they had no information about aid or had mistaken notions about it (for example, believing food stamps were a type of financial aid). Think about that: More than half of those who don’t apply for aid don’t understand what it is. Whether or not they are eligible becomes unfortunately irrelevant until we address that knowledge gap.

    Further findings in the report identified a stark contrast in awareness of important issues between students who apply for aid and those who don’t. For example, 55 percent of students who didn’t apply believed that grants must be repaid, while only 12 percent of those who did apply held that belief. 32 percent of students who didn’t apply believed government loans were the same as private loans, whereas only 13 percent of students who applied believed that.

    But what I found most telling among these statistics relates to this statement: “There are plenty of people I can ask about financial aid at my school.” 73 percent of students who applied for aid agreed with it, compared to only 34 percent of those who did not pursue aid. This is a staggering split between the two groups, and it underscores the importance of institutions raising awareness about financial literacy and other student engagement resources.

    Although the sample size was small, this study does shed some light on why students may feel they are not eligible and do not apply. Particularly with the low national completion rate for all students, we need to focus more on getting the message out to those who need it. Students feel overwhelmed about the process to the point they are not connecting with the information that is out there. Institutions can address this with thoughtful engagement with students throughout the matriculation process and through college completion. 

  • Friday, November 04, 2016 4:20 PM | Chandra Owen (Administrator)

    Things to Consider in Income-Based Repayment Plans

    By Angela Henry – Student Connections, a USA Funds affiliate

    Most federal student loan borrowers today have the option to cap their monthly payments by entering an income-based repayment (IBR) plan. These plans have the potential to be helpful to many; a recent Urban Institute study found that reduced monthly payments decrease default rates. However, there are many issues to consider. As our counselors engage with borrowers and schools, we find there is often confusion about IBR plans. It’s important to consider the individual circumstances unique to each borrower when helping consider IBR options.

    Borrowers’ situations always determine what plan we suggest for them. Often, this turns out to be an IBR, especially for borrowers just starting out in repayment. IBRs can provide a viable option for borrowers who can’t afford a full payment. They can begin reducing their debt and avoid using up their forbearance, which they may need later on in the event of a financial or other life crisis that could impact their ability to make any payment.

    Although IBR plans have been around since 2009, borrowers often aren’t familiar with this option. With so many repayment plans available (including various IBR types), they are confused about details and unsure which plans could apply to them. Our counselors talk them through many variables and discuss what they can afford. Getting them to some level of payment is ultimately what is in the best interests of both them and their school.

    One thing for borrowers to consider is the complexity and recurring nature of the application process, which must be completed each year. A 2015 Consumer Financial Protection Bureau report found that almost 60% of borrowers don’t recertify their income on time. The bureau’s midyear update on student loan complaints, recently published, shows that many borrowers are challenged by bad customer service, miscellaneous delays and even lost paperwork when applying for IBR plans. This can add weeks or months to the process.

    The consequences are costly for borrowers. In some cases, their loan balances can increase while applications are in process as unpaid interest accumulates and is capitalized. The application process can also “stop the clock” on loan forgiveness calculations; loans are often placed in forbearance during the application process, which prevents qualifying payments from being made toward loan forgiveness.

    However, it’s almost always in the student’s best interests to make some payment. For this reason, we encourage students and schools to learn more about IBRs. They can transform a delinquency or forbearance scenario into one in which the borrower is reducing principal. This is not only good for the borrower, it is a relatable metric included on the College Scorecard that prospective students and families use when considering postsecondary options.

    The sheer number of plans and their complexity can be daunting for borrowers. It’s important to stress to them that it’s worth determining the plan that’s best for them. Their loan balance is not going away, so tackling debt is always going to be better than ignoring it. The longest journey begins with a single step – and IBR plans allow even an entry-level job to help borrowers take that first step.

  • Thursday, October 13, 2016 10:26 AM | Chandra Owen (Administrator)

    For those of you who may not have seen it on the MASFAA Blog, here is a memo from NASFAA CEO Justin Draeger regarding the IRS Confirmation of Nonfiling Letter. This was a hot topic at the MASFAA Conference this year and will continue to be in the upcoming year.

    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.


  • Wednesday, October 05, 2016 8:28 AM | Chandra Owen (Administrator)

    Congratulations to those elected to serve on the 2017 MSFAA Board! I want to thank all the candidates for agreeing to run, and hope those not elected this cycle will consider volunteering to serve and run in the future.

    Your new officers are:

    President-Elect - Ryan Rafko
    Vice-President - Michael Williams
    Secretary - Deirdre Moore

    Sector Representatives -

    4 Year Public - Michelle Luck
    4 Year Private - Becca Murphy
    2 Year Public - Traci Nichols
    Proprietary - Susan Vert
    Associate - Tom Dreyer

    Val Meyers
    MSFAA Past President

  • Tuesday, August 09, 2016 3:29 PM | Chandra Owen (Administrator)

    The MSFAA Association Governance Committee recently notified the membership of two proposed modification to the MSFAA Bylaws supported by the Executive Board. The first motion sought to create a new membership category of “Affiliate Membership” for persons not directly involved with the administration of student financial aid programs at institutions of higher education, and not meeting the definition of an “Associate Member.” Along with the proposed new category, the second motion sought to clarify the definition of “Associate Member” for persons representing public or private agencies or organizations supporting the administration of student financial aid programs.

    Members were sent an email on Thursday, July 28, 2016 requesting their vote via a SurveyMonkey ballot. Voting concluded at end of business on Monday, August 1, 2016. Both motions passed with approximately 90% approval from the 22% of members who cast their vote.

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