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Week of May 8, 2017

  • This week, the U.S. House is in recess and will return for legislative business on Monday, May 15, 2017. The U.S. Senate is in session for legislative business, but it is not expected to consider student financial aid-related legislation.
  • On Wednesday at 10:30 a.m., the Senate Budget Committee holds a hearing titled, “Economic Growth Policies for the New Administration.” The sole witness will be: The Honorable Phil Gramm (R-TX), former U.S. Senator, and Visiting Scholar, American Enterprise Institute (AEI).
  • On Wednesday at 12:00 p.m., Education Secretary Betsy DeVos delivers the spring commencement address at Bethune-Cookman University’s graduation ceremony in Daytona Beach, FL.
  • On Wednesday at 2:00 p.m., the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) hosts a field hearing on small business lending in Los Angeles, CA. The event will feature remarks from CFPB Director Richard Cordray and testimony from community groups, industry representatives, and members of the public.
  • On Thursday at 9:30 a.m., New America hosts a summit titled, “Varying Degrees: How America Perceives Higher Education.” The event will take a closer look at America’s thoughts and perceptions of higher education and discuss the implications of these findings for students, institutional leaders, and policymakers. Participants in the first panel on “How Current Students View Higher Education and the Pursuit of the American Dream,” include: Jemiscoe Chambers-Black, Student, Southern New Hampshire University; Lindsay Shurtliff, Student, Northern Virginia Community College; Ariel Ventura-Lazo, Student, Northern Virginia Community College; and moderator Danielle Douglas-Gabriel, Reporter, The Washington Post. Participants in the second panel on “Discussion: Diving into the Data – Translating America’s Perceptions Into Policy,” include: José Luis Cruz, President, Lehman College; Cheryl Oldham, Vice President of Education Policy, U.S. Chamber of Commerce; Scott Ralls, President, Northern Virginia Community College; Deborah Santiago, Chief Operating Officer and Vice President for Policy, Excelencia in Education; and moderator Rob Nabors, Director of U.S. Policy, Advocacy, and Communications, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
  • On Thursday at 4:00 p.m., AEI and the Pepperdine School of Public Policy host an event titled, “Viewpoint Diversity in American Higher Education,”  to discuss political partisanship in American higher education and faculty’s role in addressing this dynamic. Participants include: Jon Shields, Government Professor, Claremont McKenna College; Samuel Abrams, Political Science Professor, Sarah Lawrence College; Gerard Alexander, Political Science Professor, University of Virginia; Eliot Cohen, International Affairs Scholar, Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies; James Gimpel, Political Science Professor, University of Maryland; Samuel Goldman, Political Science Professor, The George Washington University Loeb Center for Religious Freedom; and moderator Pete Peterson, Dean, Pepperdine School of Public Policy.
  • On Friday at 12:00 p.m., Hogan Lovells US LLP hosts a complimentary webinar for CLE credit titled, “Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) for the Boardroom  – An Executive Focus.” Led by firm partner Mark Brennan, the webinar will focus on the key decisions facing company executives as they navigate TCPA risks and assess compliance strategies. Specifically, the webinar will assess major risk drivers and key factors for strategic decision-making; recent litigation and regulatory developments; the election impact; and issues on the horizon for the rest of this year. The Hogan Lovells team will also discuss evolving compliance strategies and additional Board actions and operational steps that participants can take to help protect their organization against class action lawsuits and regulatory enforcement actions. For details and to register, visit the Hogan Lovells website.
  • On Saturday at 10:00 a.m., President Donald Trump delivers the keynote address at Liberty University’s commencement ceremony in Lynchburg, VA.


This information is shared by  MASFAA, SASFAA’s Legislative Affairs’ Committee and NCHER.

Changes to 2016-2017 and 2017-2018 Verification Requirements

Hi MASFAA Friends!  Here’s a dose of Good Monday News!  Finally some relief for our offices and the families we serve. Direct link to this letter below.


Thanks!  Stacy

Publication Date: April 24, 2017

DCL ID: GEN-17-04

Subject: Changes to 2016-2017 and 2017-2018 Verification Requirements

Summary: This letter provides information about changes we are making to certain aspects of the FAFSA® verification requirements as a result of the recent suspension of the IRS Data Retrieval Tool.

Dear Colleague:

In response to concerns about the impact of the suspension of the Internal Revenue Service Data Retrieval Tool (IRS DRT) on students and families who have been selected for verification of their Free Application for Federal Student Aid/Institutional Student Information Record (FAFSA/ISIR) information, we are providing institutions with flexibilities they may choose to use as part of their verification procedures.  These flexibilities begin immediately and apply to both the 2016-2017 and 2017-2018 FAFSA processing and verification cycles.  This guidance replaces the guidance provided in the October 18, 2016, Electronic Announcement on alternative documentation for verifying 2015 income and tax information for the 2016-2017 FAFSA, and serves as the 2017-2018 guidance on alternative documentation that the October 18, 2016, Electronic Announcement stated would be provided at a later date.  Because of the move to “prior-prior,” both of these FAFSA years use the same 2015 income and tax year information.

IRS Tax Return Filers – In lieu of using the IRS DRT, or obtaining an IRS transcript, institutions may consider a signed paper copy of the 2015 IRS tax return that was used by the tax filer for submission to the IRS as acceptable documentation to verify FAFSA/ISIR tax return information.

Verification of Nonfiling – Institutions are no longer required to collect documentation obtained from the IRS or other tax authorities verifying that the applicant, the applicant’s spouse or the applicant’s parents did not file a 2015 tax return (often referred to as Verification of Nonfiling).  However, as currently required, the applicant, the applicant’s spouse or the applicant’s parents, as applicable, must provide to the institution—

  • A signed statement certifying that the individual has not filed and is not required to file a 2015 income tax return, and a listing of the sources of any 2015 income earned by the individual from work and the amount of income from each source; and
  • A copy of IRS Form W–2, or an equivalent document, for each source of 2015 employment income received by the individual.

Additional Documentation Requirements – Some individuals may be required to submit additional documentation to verify their 2015 income and tax information.  That information as well as all other verification requirements can be found—

For the 2016-2017 award year

For the 2017-2018 award year

We hope these flexibilities will provide some relief to students and families affected by the suspension of the IRS DRT.  We thank institutions for their understanding and patience.


Lynn B. Mahaffie
Acting Assistant Secretary
for Postsecondary Education


GEN:17-04: Changes to 2016-2017 and 2017-2018 Verification Requirements in PDF Format, 423KB, 2 Pages

Why The Data Retrieval Tool Being Down Is a Big Deal

Why The Data Retrieval Tool Being Down Is a Big Deal

By Amy Glynn

Late on Thursday, March 9, 2017, the IRS and U.S. Department of Education released a joint statement about the availability and status of the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT) used to facilitate FAFSA completion. The statement called the temporary unavailability of the tool part of “a wider, ongoing effort at the IRS to protect the security of data.” The statement also pointed out that “the scope of the issue is being explored.”  There are undertones that the DRT has been shut down under concerns of a cyberattack / hack, but this hasn’t been said in certain terms.

I’m all for data security. The owners of data have an obligation to ensure the security of the data they house. Cybersecurity breaches are on the rise everywhere. No organization, whether educational or corporate, can afford to be lax in terms of taking precautionary measures. The last time we pulled data from Symantec’s Internet Security Threat Report, Educational Services was tied for second in terms of the ‘Top 10 Sub-Sectors Breached by Number of Incidents.’ Ranking first was health services. Educational Services also made the list for the Top 10 Sub-Sectors Breached by Number of Identities Exposed, with 5,012,300—yes, that’s five million-plus.

Reminiscent of Get Transcript Tool Issue

I applaud the IRS for taking action. However, I’m frustrated because this isn’t the first time the IRS has gone down this path. One would think that after the issues the IRS had with data security and the online Get Transcript Tool that they would have better safeguards in place.

In May of 2015, the IRS announced it had “discovered that criminals, using taxpayer information stolen elsewhere, had been able to pass procedures to access the Get Transcript application on IRS.gov.” Upon discovery of the issue, the Get Transcript Tool was made unavailable by the IRS—with very little communication or guidance to schools and students. At the time, the outage was identified as “temporary.”  Fast forward a year and the tool was re-introduced. I hope that when we discuss ‘temporary outages’ for the DRT, the IRS has a different definition of temporary than they have used in the past.

Data Retrieval Tool: Why Such a Big Deal?

The DRT being unavailable for, at minimum, two weeks is problematic. Students and financial aid offices are in crunch time. March and April are key months for creating and delivery financial aid award letters, and for students to make a choice and commit to a college. In addition, many states have deadlines for FAFSA submission. As many as 15 states have a deadlines falling between March to May. This means students need to complete the FAFSA on-time to see a picture of the institutional, state, and Federal Aid options available to them. Without this clear picture, students cannot make well informed financial decisions, something actively pushed by the entire higher education community.

Downtime Impacts Students

When discussing the impact on students, the joint IRS and Ed Department statement read: “This does not limit families’ ability to apply.”  I beg to differ. It’s possible we have different definitions of the word limit, but I find this very limiting for students. While it is true that the unavailability of the DRT does not stop a student from completing the FAFSA, it certainly limits the likelihood of them completing it.

Additionally, May 1 is known as National Decision Day.  It’s the deadline for students to identify the school they have chosen to attend. Making this decision is already incredibly stressful for students and families, and doesn’t need to be exacerbated.

Student Verification Impact

Students who use the DRT are less likely to be selected for a Federal process called Verification. During this process, a school is required to collect documentation from a selected student to ensure certain data elements on his or her FAFSA were reported correctly. The majority of the fields that get verified are of a financial nature. Use of the DRT eliminates the need for students to provide a copy of their Tax Transcript, obtainable only from the IRS.

Additionally, in October 2016 the industry shifted to prior-prior year tax information, as opposed to prior-year tax information. With this shift, there exists a unique, one-time possibility of a student having two FAFSAs filed using the same 2015 tax data. That also provides an increased opportunity for financial information that should be the same on both applications, to conflict.

The best way to avoid being selected for verification is to use the DRT. But, oh wait, you can’t do that for two weeks (minimum) One would anticipate that with the DRT down, verification and Comment Codes for conflicting information are going to increase significantly.

A proven leader in higher education, Amy Glynn spent more than a decade in financial aid, ensuring products and services were in compliance with Federal Title IV regulations while meeting the highest service levels possible. Today she is the Vice President of Financial Aid & Community Initiatives at CampusLogic.  She earned her Master of Science in Higher Education from Walden University.

Great Lakes February 2017 Webinars

February 2017 Webinar Sessions and Descriptions

 Professional Judgment: Unraveling the Mystery

Professional Judgment or PJ authority rests with the financial aid administrator—and is a huge responsibility. Used wisely it enables you to award specific students the right amount of aid. There are a variety of ways to exercise this option but what’s the best method for each situation?

Specific topics covered include:

  • Identify the situations warrant the use of professional judgment
  • Understand appropriate actions and required documentation
  • Review and discuss case studies

 Date:  February 1 at 2:00 p.m. CST

February 9 at 11:00 a.m. CST




 Repayment Plans 2.0: Strategies and Insights to Help Borrowers Succeed

Multiple repayment options like IBR, ICR, Pay As You Earn, and now REPAYE, in addition to several other choices, can bring confusion. Many borrowers do not fully understand the required significance in selecting a repayment plan. However, when they choose one that fits their needs, they’re more likely to successfully repay. Attend this session to learn strategies and insights to help your borrowers navigate the repayment process, including details about the newest option—REPAYE.

Specific topics covered include:

  • Details of the repayment plans – who qualifies and how?
  • Pros and cons of each plan
  • Techniques for helping your students develop a repayment strategy

 Date:  February 7 at 11:00 a.m. CST

February 22 at 2:00 p.m. CST



 Charting the Path: Building Your Financial Wellness Program

We want students to be successful—both academically and financially—and that requires campus-wide commitment. Do you know how to build an effective financial wellness program that has campus buy in? If students don’t have the knowledge, confidence or expertise to manage their finances when they graduate, delinquency and default may be in their future. We’ll explore ways to build a financial wellness program that will put your students on the path to success.

Specific topics covered include:

  • Exploring ways to get “buy in” across campus
  • Developing the blueprint for a successful program
  • Supporting you with student-facing resources

 Dates:  February 7 at 2:00 p.m. CST



Who’s Defaulting and Why: An In-depth Look at the Root of Loan Default

Borrowers default because they don’t pay—they don’t’ pay because their payments are unaffordable. However, unaffordability is one of the many reasons why borrowers struggle in repayment. There are others. We’ve identified who’s defaulting and why so that you can better understand which borrowers may have problems in repayment. We’ll also show you how to gather your own findings so that you can develop more targeted interventions. Getting to the root of loan default is the key that can move the needle on your rate and help the borrowers you serve.

Specific topics covered include:

  • An examination of loan defaulters
  • How and where to identify school-specific data
  • How to create targeted default prevention initiatives—using your data to develop a plan

Date: February 9 at 2:00 p.m. CST



Anatomy of a Cohort Default Rate

Have you ever dissected your cohort default rate?  Attend this session to learn what factors and circumstances affect your default rate. Do you know what factors and circumstances affect your rate? Things to consider include defaulted loans from students who attended multiple schools, the timing of deferments, and the impact of loan consolidation and rehabilitation. This session will review all of these situations so you can better understand your rate and help your borrowers. This session will review all of these and more so that you can better understand your rate and help your borrowers.

Specific topics covered include:

  • How the Department calculates cohort default rates
  • Timing of loan default
  • The impact of consolidation, deferments, and forbearance on CDRs
  • Special circumstances that could be included in the cohort default rate calculation
  • When and how are CDRs sent to schools

 Date:  February 15 at 11:00 a.m. CST

February 28 at 2:00 p.m. CST




First-generation Students: Opportunities to Encourage Student Success

First-generation students often lack some of the fundamental knowledge needed to navigate the college experience. There is no question that a college degree can lead to more employment opportunities and potentially greater financial security. However, many students whose parents did not attend college may be at a disadvantage when it comes to navigating the ins and outs of the college bureaucracy.

Specific topics covered include:

  • Defining who are first-generation students?
  • Explore ways to reach out
  • Examine barriers and ways to overcome them

 Date:  February 15 at 2:00 p.m. CST



 Managing Loan Default: Making a Difference in 60 Minutes

Managing default prevention activity is important to your institution but requires resources and time. We can show you how to improve your default rate with just a little extra effort each month. By dedicating just 60 minutes each month, you can lower your school’s cohort default rate, and facilitate your ultimate goal—helping students avoid the negative consequences of loan delinquency and default.

Specific topics covered include:

  • Options for contacting late stage delinquent borrowers
  • Promoting income-driven repayment plans to early and mid-stage delinquent borrowers
  • Reaching out to borrowers during their grace period

 Date:  February 21 at 2:00 p.m. CST

 Marketing Link:


2016-2017 Slate of Candidates

2016-2017 Slate of Candidates


Stacy Walker– University of Mississippi Medical Center


Stacy Walker is the Associate Director of Financial Aid at the University of Mississippi Medical Center since 2008.  Stacy been a member of MASFAA since 2009 and she has served the board as Vendor/Sponsor chair for 2 years, Electronic Services Chair and High School Relations for the current year.  Stacy also sits on SASFAA’s Executive Board as the Global Dimensions chair for the current year.  She earned her M.B.A. in Accounting and B.S.B.A. both from Mississippi College and is currently pursuing her Doctorate Degree in Higher Education Leadership from The University of Mississippi.  Stacy currently holds 12 credentials through the NASFAA U program, where she is on the NASFAA U Honor Roll.  Stacy has also taught several NASFAA U courses to members of MASFAA and serves as a NASFAA U Instructor with NASFAA.  Stacy also earned her certification as a Certified Personal Financial Manager (CPFM) through Inceptia’s Personal Financial Management Certification program.  Her educational background, coupled with her CPFM Certification has armed her with the knowledge necessary to speak with students struggling financially and guide them towards educational and financial success.  Her primary objective is ensuring students are successful in their studies and not burdened by their financial needs.

 Vice president

Gail Muse Beggs– Holmes Community College


Gail Muse Beggs has served as the Financial Aid Director at Holmes Community College for four years.  She has also been a member of MASFAA since 2012 and currently serves as the chair of the Audit and Finance Committee and is a volunteer for the 2016 Conference Committee.  Since joining MASFAA she has been active in training opportunities and holds 7 NASFAA Credentials.  She has taught several NASFAA credential training sessions, as well as participating as an instructor for the most recent Financial AID 101 training.  She is a current member of SASFAA and NASFAA.  In addition, she serves as Vice President of the Mississippi Community and Junior College Student Aid Administrators Association and was a founding Board Member.  Gail has earned her Doctorate of Education in Higher Education from Delta State University, a Master of Science in Education Degree from Mississippi State University, a Bachelor of Science Degree in Education from Mississippi College and an Associate of Arts Degree from Hinds Communtiy Colelge.  She has 23 years’ experience in higher education and assisting students through personal and financial difficulty to obtain a degree and a higher standard of living.  She believes it the responsibility of financial aid personnel to alleviate the stressors associated with paying for school and to provide financial resources to students who would otherwise be unable to pursue post-secondary education.

Vice President

Brenda Pittman– William Carey University

brenda p

I would like to say thank you to my MASFAA colleagues and the Nominations Committee for considering me for the position of Vice-President.  It is truly an honor to be considered for this position.

I have worked in Financial Aid at William Carey University for 25 years.  I began as Administrative Assistant; I am now Associate Director.  I have a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and a Master’s degree in Educational Leadership both from William Carey.

I have been a member of MASFAA for 25 years and SASFAA for 11 years.  During this time I have served on the MASFAA Conference Committee several times, the High School Relations Committee, and State Aid Committee.  I have also served on the Local Arrangements Committee for SASFAA.  I served as your Secretary and Archives Chair for 2011-2012 and 2012-2013 and also served as MASFAA’s Vice-President for 2013-2014.  My service has been an enjoyable experience that I will never forget.  I have so enjoyed getting to know our MAFAA family over the years and I am truly thankful for the friendships and knowledge that I have gained.  It’s a great feeling to know that you are just a phone call, email or text message away if I have a question or problem.

As I have stated before, I took a job in the Financial Aid office because I needed a job at the time.  However, it didn’t take me long to realize that I had found what I was supposed to do with my life.  Yes, the world of financial aid can be so frustrating at times with our ever changing regulations but it is so rewarding for a student to drop by just to say thanks.

My husband, Fred and I live in Ellisville.

As we look to the future of our great organization, I would be honored to serve you again as Vice-President.


 Terry Bland– Itawamba Community College


Terry Bland is the Director of Financial Aid at Itawamba Community College. Prior to that, he spent 4 years at Northwest Mississippi Community College in the same position. He moved to the school-side of higher education after spending 16 years in the Federal Family Education Loan Program with BancorpSouth then MOHELA. He previously served as MASFAA’s Treasurer for 1998-2000, has served as Chair of the Audit & Finance Committee various times, and has been involved with the Conference Committee for multiple conferences.



Debbi Braswell– Belhaven University


Debbi has 20 years of experience in Financial Aid. Like so many Financial Aid Professionals, she began her career as an accidental walk in; part time employee/student worker in the financial aid office.  It was at Hinds Community College, she learned the ropes from her mentor, Anne Grove.  From verifying paper ISIRS on mastercards and filing all those paper documents to supervising the Work Study program to FAS system implementation, Debbi’s love and passion for Student Financial Aid grew from a job to a career.  After 7 years at Hinds Community College, Debbi moved on to serve at Millsap College for 5 years as Assistant Director.   As grandchildren began to rival Debbi’s love for FA, she moved back to Hinds Community College, serving as Carrie Cooper’s Assistant Director, to spend more hours at home. For the past couple of years,  Debbi has been serving students across the southeast as the Director of Financial Aid at Belhaven University.  Debbi’s experience in financial aid from a community college and private institutions perspective  lend to a well-rounded appreciation for the vast complexities of financial aid  as it is administered to meet the needs of students across Mississippi and the nation.


Brenda Carson– East Central Community College

brenda c

To be nominated to serve MASFAA as Director is an honor.  My journey in the financial aid world and MASFAA started in 1982.  I am still serving in my first financial aid job that I started 34 years ago as  Director of Financial Aid at East Central Community College.  My how things have changed!  One thing that has not changed though is the commitment that MASFAA has had as an organization to meet the needs of our financial aid professionals in the state.  MASFAA affords us all the additional opportunity to become members of a “family.”   As I have attended meetings and been involved, I have realized that serving MASFAA is truly important not only for MASFAA to continue to be strong but also for the person who is serving to grow even more personally and professionally.

Over the years, I have served MASFAA in various capacities including:

Vendor-Sponsor Chair

Legislative Committee Chair

MS Trainer for NASFAA Decentralized Training

FA101 Instructor

NASFAA Credential Training Instructor

Presenter, Moderator, Monitor at various MASFAA conferences

Representative on the ACT Council

Various MASFAA committees including Legislative, Vendor-Sponsor, Conference, High School Relations

In addition to MASFAA, I am serving as the 2015-16 President of the Mississippi Community and Junior College Student Aid Administrators Association (MCJCSAA) after having served last year as the chair of the Federal Compliance Committee.  I also serve as the voting representative for the institution for NASFAA.  I hold membership in the ECCC Administration, Faculty and Staff Association and the Mississippi Junior/Community College Faculty Association.

I am a graduate of East Central Community College and have a B.S. and M.Ed. from Delta State University.  I taught junior high before my husband accepted the job of Director of Bands at East Central Community College in 1982.  For two months that year, I worked as the Director of Publicity at East Central before accepting the job as Director of Financial Aid.  I have laughingly said that I got into financial aid somewhat by accident but I have stayed very much on purpose.  My husband Tom (deceased May 6, 2013) and I have three grown children, Christopher, Jennifer and Jeremy.  Our family has grown to include 4 grandchildren (3 girls and a brand new grandson).

I have often thought that I would like to serve MASFAA as a Director before I retire from financial aid.  I am not thinking of retiring just yet because I still feel that I am serving a purpose in helping students who are in need of financial assistance to attend college.  Again, I thank you for your nomination and it would be a privilege to serve MASFAA as Director.