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Welcome to “The Magnolia News!” If this is your first visit, please take a moment to read “About the Blog.”

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Click your heels three times and join us for the EM Forum!

SASFAA friends,

Now that the flying monkey known as Hurricane Irma has passed us by, we would love for you to make plans to attend SASFAA’s very first Enrollment Management Forum.  The hotel reservation deadline has been extended to September 29, so you still have time to join us AND support our Florida friends by visiting Orlando after the storm.

 

Learn how to use local and national data for enrollment planning and action. Dive into managing enrollment. Create a Strategic Enrollment Management plan that fits YOUR institution. Our panel will cover a range of school types, from private to public 4 year and community colleges.

 

Dr. Forrest Stuart, Associate Vice President for Enrollment Management and Director of Financial Aid, Furman University

Mr. Chuck Knepfle, Associate Vice President for Enrollment Management, Clemson University

Ms. Celena Tulloss, Senior Associate Director, Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships, University of Tennessee

Mr. Daniel Barkowitz, Assistant Vice President for Financial Aid and Veteran’s Affairs, Valencia College – West Campus

 

Register today, space is limited!

 

 

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Lifetime Membership Award Nominations & Deadline

Nominations are now being accepted for the Lifetime Membership Award.  Please nominate those individuals who have made significant contributions to MASFAA and who have performed outstanding service in the field of support and/or administration of student financial aid.  The nominee cannot be a current member of the Association.  The membership will vote at Fall training and the award will be presented at the Annual Conference in June 2018.

Please send your nominations to Alison Coker at acoker@umc.edu or Tawesia Colyer at tcolyer@belhaven.edu.  The deadline for nominations is Friday, September 29, 2017.

 

 

THIS WEEK IN LEGISLATION – WEEK OF MAY 8, 2017

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.

https://ifap.ed.gov/dpcletters/GEN1704.html

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.

Sincerely,

Lynn B. Mahaffie
Acting Assistant Secretary
for Postsecondary Education

Attachments/Enclosures:

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.