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# It’sStateConferenceTime!

February 26, 2015

Having problems communicating with students? Feel like you’re part of the “old guard” and are afraid to admit you don’t really know what a “hashtag” is or have never heard of Yik Yak? Get with the times, join your colleagues at your state conference, and attend the RMASFAA Training Committee session Communicating with 21st-Century Students: #SayWhat? Learn how to reach your Millennial (or even Generation Z/iGen?) students!

Your state representative(s) from RMASFAA’s Training Committee will offer some strategies for how to use technological tools available to you to speak your students’ language and provide an opportunity to hear best practices from your colleagues. The session will cover social media, generational issues, collaborating with other campus offices, FERPA implications and much more!

State conference dates are listed below; see your association’s website for more conference information.

  • SD – March 23-25, Deadwood
  • KS – April 8-10, Wichita
  • MT – April 8-10, Helena
  • ND – April 8-10, Bismarck
  • NE – April 15-17, Kearney
  • WY – April 23-24, Riverton
  • UT – April 29-May 1, Weber State University, Davis Campus
  • CO – October 11-14, Westminster (CAFAA/RMASFAA)

Not able to attend your state conference? Come to RMASFAA’s Annual Conference October 11-14 in Westminster, CO!

Training Tip of the Month — February

February 23, 2015

Did you Know

Now that your semester has been in progress for a month or so, you’re probably seeing students doing full withdrawals or walking away from classes. Knowing what to do with a student’s aid once they are gone can be confusing and overwhelming. Here are a few R2T4 tips and resources to help!

Never attended = recalculate!

Remember that if a student was a “no show” to a class and those credits impact his/her enrollment status (e.g., from full-time to three-quarter-time) that federal aid eligibility and Cost of Attendance must be recalculated. Aid recalculations must be done before performing R2T4 calculations so the correct eligibility amount is used to determine returns.

Attendance = Participation for online classes

Do instructors at your school know that for online classes “attendance” means the student was engaged in some sort of substantive academic participation, and that merely logging in is not considered attending? Academic attendance can include taking an exam, submitting an assignment, participating in an online study session or discussion, posting to a class blog or forum–any activity related to the class that shows the student is actively academically engaged. Participating in academic counseling or advising does NOT count as attendance for R2T4 purposes.

Modules = Yuck!

For R2T4 purposes, a program is offered in modules if a course does not span the entire length of the payment period or period of enrollment. A student is considered to have withdrawn from the payment period or period of enrollment if he/she ceases attendance prior to completing that period (and if the school does not have written confirmation of the student’s plan to return to a later module). See the Federal Student Aid Handbook, Volume 5, Chapter 1, page 63, for a series of questions to help determine whether a student in a modular program has withdrawn. Page 64 offers scenarios to help.

Aid That Could Have Been Disbursed (ATCHBD)

ATCHBD is federal aid for which a student was eligible at the time of withdrawal (must meet late disbursement requirements), but for which an actual transmittal had not yet been made to a student’s account. Inadvertent overpayments (disbursements made after the student ceased attendance but prior to the institution’s awareness of the withdrawal) should be included in ATHCHB, not disbursed aid, because the student was not actually in attendance to be eligible for the inadvertent disbursement.  Please note one recent change: schools may not include as ATCHBD Pell or loan funds that would cause (in combination with previously received funds) the student to exceed maximum eligibility limits (LEU/SULA).


Federal Student Aid Handbook, Volume 5:

Program Integrity Questions & Answers

R2T4 Regulations (34 CFR Sec. 668.22 Treatment of Title IV Funds When a Student Withdraws):

NASFAA’s Student Aid Index (requires NASFAA login):

FSA Assessments:

FSA Online Training Module—Return of Title IV Funds:

2014 FSA Conference Session 7 “Basics of R2T4 Using Credit-Hour Calendar”



2014 FSA Conference Session 8 “Basics of R2T4 Using Clock-Hour Calendar”



2014 FSA Conference Session 13 “Return of Title IV Funds—Programs of Study Taught in Modules”



This Tip of the Month was provided by your RMASFAA Training Committee

Call for RMASFAA Officer Nominations!

February 19, 2015



Nominations are now OPEN for the next slate of RMASFAA officers!!  This is your opportunity to nominate a colleague – or even yourself – to run for a RMASFAA office!  Your assistance in identifying RMASFAA members for these leadership positions is invaluable to our regional association and helps to ensure continued delivery of RMASFAA’s mission to our membership.   The following officer positions are open for nomination, and will serve on the Board of Directors in the 2015-2016 year (board year beginning October 2015):

  • President-Elect
  • Vice President
  • Treasurer (2 year term)
  • Secretary
  • Associate Member Delegate

Duties of each position are outlined within pages 9-13 of RMASFAA’s Policies & Procedures Manual.  Nominations will be accepted through April 1, 2015 and candidates must be current members of RMASFAA.  The RMASFAA Officer Election will be administered online, during the month of May.

The online nomination form can be located HERE.  Again – please give some thought to which of your colleagues you’d like to see on this year’s RMASFAA election ballot – or even consider nominating yourself for one of the above offices! I look forward to hearing from you!

With every good wish,

-Joe Donlay

RMASFAA President-Elect and Chair, Nominations & Elections Committee

Leadership Pipeline Spotlight

February 17, 2015

Leadership Pipeline Spotlight – Mary Sommers (Mentor) and LeAnn Hoffman (Mentee)

lead word

In our very first blog post about the Leadership Pipeline, highlighting past and present mentors and mentees, I had the opportunity to speak with Mary Sommers (mentor) (Director – University of Nebraska at Kearney, Kearney, NE) and LeAnn Hoffman (mentee) (former Assistant Director of Wayne State College in Wayne, NE now Director at Western Iowa Tech Community College, Sioux City, IA).  Mary and LeAnn were part of 2010-2011 cohort of Leadership Pipeline participants.

  • What was the best part of the mentee/mentor relationship?

(LeAnn) The best part of the pipeline is the relationship between Mary Sommers and I.  Mary is absolutely the best!!  Being a part of the Leadership Pipeline opened many doors for me but I would have to say that the “main door” was having a person like Mary to go to for advice or just to talk about processes.

(Mary) The best part of the mentee/mentor relationship was first and foremost just getting to know LeAnn better as a professional and learning more about her aspirations.  It was fun for me to see her enthusiasm for our work.  But I also felt the opportunity to be a mentor made me a bit more reflective about my years in financial aid and how I have changed and learned new things.  We don’t often take the time to be reflective in this day and age and participating in this program made me do this.  That was a blessing.

  • What was one of the most helpful things that you learned from your mentor/mentee?

(LeAnn)The most helpful thing I learned from Mary is that patience is a virtue.  I am a very impatient person by nature, and she taught me that my career path would happen but it would take time.  Most of all, she taught leadership by being the best role model anyone could ask for.  I hope to one day follow her lead by taking leadership positions at the NASFAA level as well as in my new state (IASFAA) and regional (MASFAA) organization.

(Mary) When I was working with LeAnn I was also preparing to chair the Leadership Pipeline Committee. So one of the things I learned from LeAnn and that entire class of participants was that one of the significant strengths of the program was the relationship that developed among the mentees with one another.  They developed close personal/professional relationships with one another.  We worked after that to do everything we could to encourage those relationships.  LeAnn also taught me a lot about persistence during that year.  I have often thought about that when I found myself in a situation where persistence was required.  LeAnn was my inspiration in that regard.

  • How did participating in the leadership pipeline affect/direct your professional development?

(LeAnn) While participating in the program, Mary helped me increase my confidence level.  The program was great at boosting my confidence by showing me that I need to believe in myself before anyone else would believe I have the ability to lead.  This alone help immensely in my career development because I knew I had what it takes to lead a staff and becoming a director.

(Mary) Professional development occurs at many levels and in many ways.  But participating in the Leadership Pipeline program as a mentor has simply convinced me that something structured like this program can work. Sometimes we as financial aid professionals won’t take the time necessary to actually think about and read about ways to improve our approach to our work. We are too busy just trying to keep up with technical changes in statute and regulations, systems, etc.  I became convinced as a result of this experience that a structured program can provide the opportunity to reflect and think more about our approach to our work that is essential for success.

  • If you could give any piece of advice to upcoming FA professionals what would it be?

(LeAnn) Believe in yourself!  The negative is easier to believe but as a leader you need to have the ability to push the negative aside and focus on the positive.  Having this ability will not only help you become a better leader but will also help your staff because attitude will flow from you to those you lead.

(Mary) The first piece of advice would be to make connections with financial aid professionals outside of your institution.  Those of us who are ancient say this over and over again, but the network is the strength of this profession more than just about any other I have witnessed in higher education.  The second piece of advice I would give to young professionals is don’t be afraid to make changes. For example if you have always worked at a private college, pursue an opportunity at a community college.  If you have always worked on scholarships, don’t be afraid to pursue an opportunity that is focused on the student loan programs.  Having a breadth of experience makes you a better financial aid administrator.

–Becca Dobry, Association News Committee Co-Chair, Nebraska

Becca Dobry

Wyoming State Update

February 12, 2015

Wyoming rmasfaa

Wyoming members at the RMASFAA 2014 fall conference in Snowbird, Utah

Greetings to our RMASFAA friends from Wyoming! Unlike the bears who live in our state, we have not spent the winter hibernating.  Then again, there’s no such thing as a sleepy season for anyone in the Financial Aid world.

Wyoming conference

WyASFAA 2014 Conference

Our WyASFAA President, Joanna Carter, Director of Student Financial Aid at the University of Wyoming, reports that the High School Counselors Workshop held last November was a resounding success. Not only do we strive to keep our high school counselors informed about the latest changes, we also hope to inspire. One of the most exciting initiatives this year comes from First Lady Michelle Obama. The FAFSA Completion Challenge. High Schools who accept the challenge must submit a 3-5 minute video showing how their school is encouraging students to complete the FAFSA. The school with the winning video could win a visit from the First Lady to their commencement ceremony! If you’ve missed this, there’s still time to spread the word to high schools. Details can be found at:

In other news, details are being finalized for our state conference! This year’s theme is “Don’t Gamble with the Regs. Come to WyASFAA 2015”.  Timely, fun, and exciting topics will be presented. The conference will be held April 23-24 in beautiful Riverton, Wyoming at the Wind River Hotel and Casino.  If sometimes the regs don’t seem inspirational (did I say that?), the views in Wyoming are guaranteed to.

wyoming mountainSo while we’re busy gearing up for State Association elections, refining our packaging parameters, and looking forward to another year, there hasn’t been time for a winter’s nap! We hope the New Year brings only wonderful things for all of our Financial Aid peeps!

-Michelle Massey
Association News Committee Member, Wyoming

Michelle Massey

Michelle Massey

Nominations for NASFAA Awards

February 10, 2015

NASFAA is currently soliciting nominations for the following individual awards:

  • Allan W. Purdy Distinguished Service Award
  • Lifetime Membership Award
  • Honorary Membership Award
  • Meritorious Achievement Award
  • Robert P. Huff Golden Quill Award

If you haven’t already, please check out the NASFAA website to learn more about the criteria for each award or to submit a nomination.

I also want to call your attention to NASFAA’s newest award, the Gold Star Award, which recognizes innovative ideas in the financial aid arena at any level, targeted toward any constituency. This award is open to individuals working at NASFAA member institutions; member institutions; regional associations; and state associations. The Gold Star Award honors up to three ideas each year. If you have succeeded in doing something that no one has done before, NASFAA wants to hear about it! Please click on the following link for information on how to submit a project, individual, or group for consideration: The deadline for award nominations (limited to NASFAA members only) is February 27, 2015.

Finally, NASFAA presents a Regional Leadership Award to individuals, who need not be financial aid administrators, who have made outstanding contributions to the financial aid profession at the regional and state levels over a sustained period of time (i.e., seven years or more). Leadership at the national level is not a criterion for this award. Current members of NASFAA’s Board of Directors, including non-voting members, are not eligible to receive this award.

Individuals selected for the Regional Leadership Award must:

  • Exhibit high integrity and character:
  • Have shown creative leadership:
  • Have inspired and encouraged others to participate actively in professional development activities:
  • Have continued active involvement in professional organizations after holding elected office; and
  • Have supported the goals and objectives of NASFAA.

Nominations for this award are submitted to NASFAA by the regional associations. If you would like to nominate a fellow RMASFAA colleague who meets the above criteria, please email me ( no later than Friday, February 20, with the name of the nominee, the name of his or her institution, the length of time he or she has been involved at the regional and state levels, and a brief description of how this individual meets the requirements listed above. Nominations will be discussed at the RMASFAA winter board meeting (to be held February 27-28 in Denver, CO) in order to select the name that will be submitted to NASFAA.

Thank you for helping NASFAA to identify and recognize excellence in our profession!

President’s Update

February 6, 2015

Hello, RMASFAA friends!

It’s hard to believe that two months have already passed since my last blog post. I hope that each of you had a restful and happy holiday break, and that the new year, as well as the new semester, have started off successfully for you and your loved ones. Speaking of holidays, some neighbors on my street had a big Groundhog Day party on Monday night. To be honest, I thought it was a little unusual at first, but after getting used to the idea, I’ve decided to celebrate as many holidays as possible in 2015 (if nothing else, it’s a good reason to eat!). Here are a few favorites:

  • Tomorrow is ‘Eat Ice Cream for Breakfast Day.’ I’m pretty sure this one needs no further explanation. Best. Holiday. Ever.
  • The first Friday the 13th of every year (which happens to be next week for 2015) is officially ‘Blame Someone Else Day.’ I have been unknowingly celebrating this holiday for years. Joe Donlay will be very relieved to know that my rampant blaming must now be limited to only one day per year (although I’m not making any promises on that one).
  • ‘No Brainer Day’ falls on February 27, followed closely by ‘Public Sleeping Day’ on the 28th. These also happen to be the dates for our RMASFAA winter Board meeting. For the record, this is entirely coincidental, although it does serve as a great excuse in case we accomplish absolutely nothing. We are excited that Justin Draeger (NASFAA President & CEO) will be with us to discuss partnerships between RMASFAA and NASFAA. Please feel free to reach out to me or any other Board member if you have items to add to the agenda.

As a follow-up, the Association Governance Committee, led by the very capable Jeff Jacobs, has been working hard to update RMASFAA’s Policy & Procedures Manual with the changes voted on at our last Board meeting. These include:

  1. Clarifying that RMASFAA does not pay for conference call services (many free options for phone conferencing are available).
  2. Adding specific instructions for conference planning and hotel contracts. Going forward, contracts will be reviewed by conference planning experts who can help protect RMASFAA’s interests during negotiations.
  3. Clearly stating RMASFAA’s continued support of interregional visits for our Presidents-Elect, even though the program is no longer sponsored or organized by NASFAA.
  4. Updating our room policies to cover single rooms for those attending the annual Board of Directors meeting, which precedes the Annual Conference. Although RMASFAA still encourages double occupancy where possible, this change allows more flexibility and opportunities for those with budget constraints.
  • March 15th, the Ides of March, commemorates the assassination of Julius Caesar and marks the first day of spring in the Roman calendar. This is also the final day to pay RMASFAA membership dues for 2015 without losing member privileges (including website access and voting rights). If you haven’t already renewed your institution’s RMASFAA membership, do it today! Believe me, you don’t want to see Kelly Svenkesen (Membership Committee Chair) angry. She makes Brutus look like a lightweight.
  • On March 23, 1903, the Wright brothers filed the first patent for their ‘Flying Machine,’ which they would successfully fly on December 17 of that same year. Appropriately, March 23rd kicks off a busy few weeks of travel for me, including a trip to Portland for the spring meeting of the NASFAA Board of Directors and visiting seven state conferences by the end of April! (Thanks, Orville and Wilbur; I couldn’t do this without you!) I’m looking forward to seeing many of you and once again invite you to share your experiences and best ideas during the RMASFAA feedback/listening sessions, which I will be moderating. I’m also excited to announce that members of the RMASFAA Training Committee will present at each state conference on the topic ‘Communicating with 21st-Century Students: #SayWhat?’.
  • Be sure to mark your calendars for ‘National Chocolate Ice Cream Day,’ June 7, which also kicks off a week of top-notch training at RMASFAA’s own Summer Institute in Golden, CO. This year’s theme throws us back to the Awesome 80s: ‘Financial Aid’s Totally Tubular Mix Tape!’ So break out your Trapper Keeper and your best big hairdo—registration will go live next month! I’m putting in my order now for some gnarly training to the max, along with a nice big dish of ice cream with Magic Shell on the top (remember that radical stuff?!).

Thanks for reading, and for your many contributions to RMASFAA. I am continually encouraged and strengthened by the wonderful colleagues and friends who make our Association great.

Gotta run: today is ‘Lame Duck Day’ and I’ve got some serious slacking off to do!


SAAS Photo