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NY State’s epic new Excelsior Scholarship, AKA “Tuition-Free” education.

Maybe I’m tired, but I haven’t been able to wrap my brain around this great announcement from our Governor.  How will CUNY and SUNY tuition be “free” after TAP and Pell is applied towards the cost of tuition?! Wouldn’t tuition-free imply -0- tuition for those whose household income is no more than $100,000 for 2017?  What am I missing?

Right now, in order to be eligible for TAP, a student must be charged “at least $200 a year in tuition”.  So, if tuition is FREE, students at SUNY and CUNY would not qualify for TAP.  They could qualify for Pell… and the students whose parents make a decent living, and will have a high EFC, would have NY State take care of their tuition, while their less economically advantageous counterparts, would use up their lifetime Pell eligibility?!  Again, please let me know if I am missing something…  How is this fair or good?  Whom does this really help?  How will the state be able to accommodate an influx of so many students?  The deadline for the Fall term admission to CUNY is February 1st, 2017, according to their website.  And don’t get me started on the realistic number of students who will benefit from Excelsior and ETA scholarships.  How many of the students in community colleges graduate on time?!  So while trying to reduce student debt, HESC will become a loan servicer again, in 2019 or sooner, if students start dropping out after receiving these “free” funds, or not completing 15 credits a semester with a 2.0 GPA.

Private colleges in New York have to reduce their tuition by at least $1,000 or up to $3,000 a year for students whose parents do not qualify for Pell and TAP.  That’s just crazy to me…   What about the impact on GE reporting?  Default prevention?

All the students who have been packaged for 2017-2018, will now have to be repackaged, most likely manually, one by one…  Has our governor thought about that? A lot of students at private community colleges are now considering waiting for CUNY or SUNY, and putting their education on hold.  How will that impact NY State?

What are your thoughts?  Disclaimer – everything written here does not represent my institution, and is my opinion only.  I am really confused and looking for guidance and the NY FA community’s opinions.

Thanks for reading.


Here is why President Trump may be right about changing Federal Work Study

Don’t throw stones at me.  

In this March 17, 2017 article on Inside Higher Education it lays the problem in the current work study allocation formula on the table.


Robert Kelchen, an assistant professor of higher education at Seton Hall University, found that the 322 most selective private colleges in the country receive 4 percent of Pell Grant funds, which would indicate they enroll a low number of low-income students. Those institutions received 22 percent of Federal Work-Study funds, Kelchen found. 

Federal Work-Study has been criticized for disproportionately sending money to elite campuses and middle-class students instead of institutions that serve low-income students, they noted.  

This article in the Atlantic from 2014 shows the top 10 colleges using work study.

My school (SUNY) gets about $350,000 per year. We asked for an increase in part for the minimum wage increase and did not get it for 17-18.


Work study allocations top 10 2014:

  1. CUNY $8,401,359
  2. NYU $7,581,933
  3. Columbia $6,195,596
  4. USC $5,201,646
  5. Penn State $5,142,373
  6. DeVry $5,103,454
  7. ITT $4,627,648
  8. U Michigan $4,337,798
  9. International American University of Puerto Rico $4,245,722
  10. Cornell $4,074,986

The formula allocation for work study has become skewed and as much as I hate to say this President Trump is right. I do not say this every day. We need to support a re-thought of how work study is allocated.

NYSFAAA Conference Charity Fundraiser

Dear Colleagues,

I want to talk a little about the NYSFAAA charity for this year’s conference – St. Peter’s Soup Kitchen. This organization provides hot lunches for anyone who shows up, Monday – Friday, including holidays. Numbers run anywhere from 100-250 hungry people who can count on at least one hot meal that day. My husband has been a volunteer cook there for a number of years and has been touched with how so little can help so many. They conduct a backpack drive filled with school supplies each year. They have a community garden where they grow fresh vegetables. They provide emergency assistance whenever possible. I hope you can find it in your hearts to support this worthwhile organization. A raffle is being held at the conference with a basket containing: an overnight stay at Turning Stone, breakfast for 2 at the Harvest Buffet, $200 cash, $50 Visa gift card, $25 Master Card gift card, $25 Starbuck’s gift card, and two bottles of wine going to some lucky winner – a $500 value! If you aren’t able to attend the conference, you will be missed, however you can still donate and get into the raffle by sending me your check this week – made out to either NYSFAAA or directly to St. Peter’s Soup Kitchen. I will fill out your raffle tickets and enter them in the drawing. Tickets are $5 or 3 for $10. Provide me with your email and I will respond that I have received your donation and send you scanned copies of your tickets. Let’s have NYSFAAA break all records for charity fundraising this year – I know we can do it.

Thanks to those of you who have already sent me your checks – I know I can always count on my NYSFAAA family to help those in need. Hope to see you at Turning Stone.

Anne Barton, Past President of NYSFAAA



Mistakes (on the FAFSA)

At the 2016 NASFAA conference they discussed double digit “mistakes” in FAFSA applications where it was indicated a tax return was not filed while it really was.

I found “mistakes” coming from a different aspect of the FAFSA.

I have in the town next to mine a Financial Aid Consultant. I call him Z. His company has a web site and he goes on a “local seminar tour.” This consists of a local library tour where he offers a free 1 hour lecture on how to beat the high cost of college. Some high schools use him for their college night.

His company charges $1,195 for new clients and $495 for returning clients. For the FAFSA and CSS he charges $1,495. He charges $495 for loan consultations including loan forgiveness, disability, entrance counseling, etc.

At a USA funds meeting I noted that he had at least two other employees so business is booming.

Company Z has said in it’s brochure that they specialize in separated and divorced parents.

They cater to upper middle class parents.

I have written to Department of Education Inspector General. They told me unless I have proof of something they are unable to pursue it.

We have at my school very limited institutional funds. I had a slew of students who were eligible were divorced and or separated.

I added a requirement that said we require both parents income even if they are divorced and or separated.

First I began to find tax returns of (Divorced and separated parents) filed separate with the same address. I would get a standard separation agreement you can get on the internet notarized. I found the income of the parent not filed on the FAFSA or CSS was six figures and up in many cases. I would get tax returns with P.O. Boxes as address. I would ask for utility bills and one parent could not do it in many cases.

I was not heartless and if it was clear cut the parents were not together I used just one income. I would find parents of middle and lower incomes would be truthful in most cases. I found some of the upper middle class parents would often be questionable.

So I gather the consultant in the town next to mine does a nice business for the upper middle class parents.

I ask for both incomes ONLY for our limited institutional aid. I try and keep an open mind but let a committee make decisions. I sometimes tell the parents when I get them on the phone that by filling separate tax returns they are placed on a higher tax rate and pay often thousands more in taxes then they would have filling a married tax return.

I am not the FBI but want my limited funds to go to the right group of students and not just the parents that hire a consultant to manipulate their data to get more aid. This seems like another area where “mistakes” can occur.

NASFAA 50th Anniversary Conference Days 3 and 4

Day 3 was a full day! NASFAA sponsors a breakfast for state and regional Presidents during the conference. This is a great way to meet other Presidents and get to know what they do a little bit. Of course, it was the third day of a meeting/breakfast at 7am which is a little difficult but it was a good meeting. Justin Draeger discussed new ways for states/regions to collaborate with NASFAA and updates on their training events. Much focus on NASFAA university and state/regional collaborations. I know that both EASFAA and NYSFAAA are looking into this possibility.

Several good sessions occurred throughout the day. There was a good variety of sessions available for leadership offerings and for nuts and bolts kinds of sessions. The annual awards luncheon and business meeting was today with a very special national award going to NYSFAAA retiree Heather McDonnell. It was a well deserved award for Heather and it was good to see her back!

The afternoon sessions included the annual Federal Uodate with Jeff Baker, Lynn Mehaffy and Jeff Appel. Before this we had remarks from Ted Mitchell, Undersecretary of Education. He gave an update on the Higher Education priorities of the President during the last 191 days of his administration. He has an app counting down the days! Priorities include streamlining income contingent repayment programs and streamlining the FAFSA (of course). In addition to this is getting the PPY changes and Early FAFSA off and running smoothly. They do care about how it happens. Per Jeff Baker the guidance on conflicting information will come out most likely this week. There were changes in clarification of questions even within the timeframe of the conference so it will be interesting to see what comes out.

Today was the final day of a very good conference. It began with a speech from Rep. John Kline, chair of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce. There are positive things about meeting in DC! He gave an update on Reauthorization talking about five recent bills that have come out. Justin and Meagan McLean-Covell gave a legislative update also and then took questions. It really appears that NASFAA is well respected on the Hill and that is good for us. They are being taken seriously and that is good for us! It is not anticipated that we will see much happen with Reauthorization before the next administration gets started and then there will be a learning curve but hopefully 2017 will see major progress.

All in all it was a very successful conference! Hanging out in DC for a couple of days before heading back to NY. See you all soon!