On Tuesday, January 31st, 2017, the Higher Education Assistance Group held their annual training session
for consultants and directors. It was an informative day with topics ranging from changes to the 2017-18 verification process to quality assurance and client service tips. This year’s featured presenters included a trainer from the federal government along with special guests from Massachusetts’ Office of Student Financial Assistance (OSFA).
HEAG President, Milton Kerstein, kicked off the program with a look back on 2016 and HEAG’s growing list of school clients from across the country. Next up was Executive Director, Colleen King, who walked us through what HEAG is doing to help keep our clients up to date on developments in financial aid news. You can follow us on Twitter @HEAG_INC and LinkedIn and subscribe to our email to receive blog posts and newsletters. Then Karyn Wright- Moore, VP of Compliance and Quality Assurance, and consultants, Sarah Fevig and Joshua Bordis, shared stories from the field. They reviewed feedback from HEAG’s clients and led lively discussions on how we can continually improve and enhance the service we provide our clients.
Zachary Goodwin, Training Officer with the Office of Federal Student Aid
The day then shifted focus as we welcomed Zachary Goodwin, Training Officer with the Office of Federal Student Aid who was making his second visit to HEAG’s annual training event. Mr. Goodwin provided a quick overview of the transition to prior-prior year FAFSA information, changes to the 2017-18 verification process and new FAFSA comment codes that require resolution because of the use of 2015 tax information by families. Notable changes included the loss of the V6 verification group for 2017-18, how to report and track the V4/V5 groups and the brand new requirement of “non-filer statements” for anyone selected for verification that did not file federal taxes.
Massachusetts’ Office of Student Financial Assistance (OSFA)
To end the day, a three member team from OSFA consisting of Clantha McCurdy, Senior Deputy Commissioner, Robert Brun, Senior Associate Commissioner and Alison Connolly, Senor Associate Director of Student Loan Programs, treated the employees on hand to a ton of facts and figures on MA state financial aid programs.
Clantha McCurdy began the presentation by going over some interesting details that only OSFA can provide. Did you know that over 350,000 FAFSA’s are submitted from Massachusetts residents each year to attend college? Or that $102M is available in FY17 from state appropriations for financial aid programs and another $55M in tuition waivers? The team was educated on the numerous scholarship programs that are available to students, including some that are portable to schools outside of MA that cover the gap between other awards and are meant to replace potential student loan debt. Foster grants, education grants for particular programs and tuition waivers rounded out the topics Mrs. McCurdy covered.
Next up, Allison Connolly spoke regarding the MA No Interest Loan (NIL) that is run solely by OSFA. The consultants learned not only about statistics regarding the program but also how to navigate the state’s NIL website. For the award year 2015- 16, almost 2500 students benefited from nearly $6 million in dollars disbursed from the NIL program. The FAFSA deadline this year for the NIL was March 17th, 2017 with an Expected Family Contribution up to 15,000 in order to qualify. Students must be full time, maintaining Satisfactory Academic Progress and not in default on other education loans. NIL promissory notes will be available in August for 2017- 2018.
Ending the state presentation was Robert Brun, who focused on the largest of the state offered programs, MASSGrant. Again, some of the state’s statistics were shared with the team and those on hand learned that while FAFSA submissions are down from a peak in 2012-13, MASSGrant still provided help to over 51,000 students in the Commonwealth to the tune of $42M. 58% of those students receiving MASSGrant funds had an Expected Family Contribution range between 0-200. It was good to learn that a large majority of the state’s neediest students were receiving help, with almost half of that pie going to the state’s community college system.
The evening concluded with dinner as the presenters joined us for further discussion and knowledge sharing. The consultants in attendance can all agree that annual trainings are absolutely necessary to stay on top of the ever evolving regulations in the financial industry and thank all of those that presented so we can continue giving our clients top-notch service.