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!

NASFAA 50th Anniversary Conference Days 1&2

Okay so I am a little late on starting this since it is now day 3 but I will begin with Sunday. First the weather! I have to say it has been sunny and warm so far in Washington DC. Saturday was perhaps a little too warm with temps in the 90’s and quite humid but now it really nice! Of course we spent most of the day indoors!

I volunteered to work the registration desk on Sunday morning. Volunteering for a 7:30am – 10:00am shift seemed great a couple months ago. At 6:00am it no longer felt that way. And there are 2500 registrants for this conference (give or take) and Sunday is the first day so it was certainly BUSY! But I will say it was quite rewarding also. I felt much better about doing it afterward.

The day’s events began with a NASFAA chorus made up of over 50 volunteer FA administrators singing patriotic songs. They did a really wonderful job! Our keynote speaker was Jeanette Walls, author of the best-selling novel “Glass Castle”. She was simply amazing to say the least. She told of her meager upbringing in Arizona and West Virginia with parents who could not provide for her and her siblings for various reasons. She told her story through tears and much laughter and really made us thought about how we view people from different walks of life and how we are all the same even though we are different.

I could tell by the early sessions that it is going to be a very educational conference. My first session was on modules and Title IV eligibility. Good lord could they make it more confusing and make less sense? I only say that because the rules make it that way. The trainer, Greg Martin, was extremely knowledgeable and it was not his fault it is a very complicated process! He did a great job. I heard that the PPY session was not only standing room only but the crowd was also out the door. It certainly will be an interesting Fall semester.

Sunday evening was truly wonderful as NASFAA celebrated it’s 50th anniversary with a buffet dinner, drinks, and dancing. It was very nice!

Monday began a full day of sessions and they were very good. I actually started at 7:00 am with an EASFAA meeting so it was a long day. Lots of great sessions. A lunch we heard from Rep. Bobby Scott who is the ranking member of the Committee on education and yhe workforce. He is very much an advocate for student aid and should be commended for his work. We also heard from 5 former students who are now very successful in their chosen fields and credit receiving financial aid for them breaking out of difficult family circumstances. There wasn’t a dry eye in the room.

The HEA Review was very good also. Justin Draeger has a way of delicately but decisively putting legislative staffers on the spot (in a good way mostly). Senator Murray’s staffer Bryce and Senator Alexander’s staffer, Bob Moran were there. The House staff sent their regrets. Interesting! That allowed the Senate staffers however to place some blame on the House. Interesting comments about Reauthorization discussions taking place currently, especially in regards to One Grant, One Loan and accountability.

Just starting day 3 now so will send a message about that later. Perhaps I will be able to see some sights tonight!

What is old is new.

In 2002 the then attorney general Spitzer worked to get a court order to bar a Lynbrook company from using a “fake” marketing scheme where the company sent schools a survey to complete by children to collect personal information and then used/sold that information to target sales pitches to children for items such as magazines, music videos, credit cards, clothes, cosmetics and student loans.

What is old is new.

We are now getting inundated with solicitations to place a “scholarship(s)” online or to notify our students about scholarships that our students cannot afford to not know about.  These are a scheme to collect personal information to market and sell that data. Often the entity will give away the $1,000 at random to stay legit.  The survey for a potential scholarship is used to collect extensive data and is then resold. The $1,000 is small change for the profits the marketing firm makes. They often present themselves as any number of names or companies.

When we as financial aid professionals, in our urge to assist our students, place these phony scholarships on our web sites or notify our students, we unwittingly help the marketing firms gather data and resell this data at extensive profits. The fake scholarship gimmick has become big business. At my school we must get at least 3-5 e-mails a week from various so called scholarships. If you try to locate information online about these awards you never find them.

What is old is new.

Maybe it is time for the current Attorney General to start looking into these marketing firms posing as scholarships? You would think our job would get easier?