Transitioning to the 17-18 aid year is going to be one of the most burdensome efforts you’ve ever faced, financial aid. As with the rollout of any new aid year, financial aid in 17-18 will undergo changes compared to 16-17. Updates to year references, changes to verification, C Codes being added or removed, new founding options—things change. They have to change, to keep up with our changing industry, changing student demands, and more. So why is this year going to be particularly burdensome?
A Perfect Storm: PPY & Early FAFSA
The shift to prior-prior year (PPY) tax information on the Federal Application For Student Aid (FAFSA) has caused a perfect storm in terms of conflicting information. Never before—and hopefully never again—has the potential for conflicts across aid years on the FAFSA been so high.
For one time only, 39 answers on a student’s FAFSA should exactly match from 16-17 to 17-18. If a student provides information that isn’t an exact match, and PELL eligibility between the years falls outside of tolerance levels established by the Department of Education (ED), a C Code 399 may be generated, flagging the student’s Institutional Student Information Record (ISIR) and halting fund disbursement immediately.
C Code 399’s Impact: Office Workload
Only students with a PELL-eligible Expected Family Contribution (EFC) in 17-18 could potentially be flagged with a C Code 399, says ED. In the 2014-2015 aid year 8.2 Million students received a PELL grant. If only 15% of those Pell grant recipients were flagged as containing conflicting information outside the threshold, that would mean 1,230,000 C Code 399 flags for aid offices across the country to clear. This could be a mountain of work.
C Code 399 lmpacts Your Neediest Students
How do we make this as easy as possible on students, while simultaneously ensuring all administrative requirements are met? Understanding what will be required of us as schools is crucial. I consider it a three-step process: Identify, Research, and Resolve. Remember, each singular step will have its own task list.
Step 1: Identify
This will be problematic for any Financial Aid Office that doesn’t plan to load ISIR files to their Student Information System (SIS) until November, January, or even April. Institutions are required to immediately halt future aid disbursements and work study payments from the time that the C Code 399 is generated by ED and processed to the school.
How will you know to hold aid disbursement if you have no visibility into what ISIRs your office has received? You will either need to upgrade early or find another way to identify students who have a 399. If you are a school that does not load all ISIR records to your SIS, you’ll need to find a way to review the suspended/held records to determine if you have ISIRs for both years.
Step 2: Research
Once the students who have been flagged with a C Code 399 have been identified, if resolution is required then all future disbursements of aid for both aid years (16/17 and 17/18) must be suspended. To resolve, you’ll need to review the ISIRs to determine which data elements hold discrepancies from one aid year to the next. Does your SIS currently offer functionality to locate these discrepancies? It’s a good question to ask them. Finding the discrepancies will be a bit like playing ‘Where’s Waldo,’ as you’ll have to compare up to 39 fields per year until you find the conflicting information.
Next you’ll need to determine if any documentation exists on-file to clear the conflict. Documentation can take different forms. For example, successful transfer of tax information with an 02 Data Retrieval Code in either aid year will work. Additionally, a tax transcript, and—late-breaking from ED—a copy of the tax return, also count to clear conflicts for 399.
If documentation is not currently available to clear the conflict, you’ll need to notify the student of your request that they provide necessary additional documentation. This communication should also include the details students will need to understand the situation—it’s highly unlikely they’ll know anything about C Code 399 or conflicting information, and will have questions.
Situations where a C Code 399 flag is not required are outlined in a flowchart from the ED, titled Guidance to Date.
Step 3: Resolution
Once all of the documentation needed to resolve the instance of a C Code 399 is in possession by your office, the entire file needs to be reviewed. This review is made to ensure that both aid years are using the appropriate financial data to determine eligibility of aid. ISIR corrections need to be identified, processed, and awards adjusted. Adjustments will require student notification, and if the EFC has increased returns may be required and students reported as being in over-award of need-based aid. This step is likely where your office would prefer to spend more of its time, counselling students on the changes, answering their questions, and helping them find a successful path forward.
If you do not stop disbursements of aid, resolve the conflicting information, and adjust awards accordingly, ED is authorized to take action. Your office may be audited in terms of over awards, under awards, conflicting information, ineligible disbursements, and potential demonstration of administrative incompetence. Fines may be levied, heightened cash monitoring may be enforced, and additional reviews may occur.
We have to believe the long-term positive impacts on students and Financial Aid Offices will be much greater than the potential negative impacts that could occur in this one transition year. But it’s certainly going to be one tumultuous year as we all work through this.
Brought to you by:
VP of Financial Aid & Community Initiatives
Sew for Kids is an organization on the Pine Ridge Reservation. Their motto is “Sewing together for the children of Pine Ridge Reservation”. Pine Ridge Reservation is the second largest Indian reservation in the US, located about 50 miles from Rapid City, SD and in the two poorest counties in the entire US. The reservation covers about two million acres and is home to 30,000 Oglala Lakota Sioux Indians. 50-60% of children on the reservation live in substandard and over-crowded housing, many without electricity, running water, insulation, a sewage system or even kitchen appliances.
Although Sew for Kids was formed to send quality clothing, shoes and other items to children on the Pine Ridge Reservation, they assist many other organizations with requested items. Their parent organization was recently changed to Lakota Friends Circle (a 501(c)3 corporation). Lakota Friends Circle supports projects initiated by Lakota community members, including both emergency needs and long-term sustainability (food and energy assistance; woodcutting; programs for youth, families and elders; educational needs; home renovation and construction; renewable energy planning and community gardening).
We will have a booth near the Registration table to accept donations during the conference.
For the 2016 RMASFAA Philanthropy project we are requesting the following:
- Monetary donations – Please make checks payable to Lakota Friends Circle
- For those traveling, we know luggage space is tight but cash and checks do not take up much space
- Clothing for children (boys and girls) ages 0 through 10 or clothing 0-3 months up to size 12-14:
- Winter coats, Warm hats, Mittens, Scarves, Winter boots, Underwear, Socks, Shoes, Shirts, Pants, Dresses, Pajamas
- School Supplies (yes we know it is past the start of school but school supplies do need to be replenished during the year)
Learn more about Lakota Friends Circle HERE.
Read the latest on the Sew for Kids blog HERE.
Please consider contributing to this deserving organization. Thank you!
Have questions about the conference? Feel free to contact our Conference Co-Chairs:
I HATE EXERCISING. Let’s just get that out of the way.
I recently started going to a HIIT class after work. No, I’m not learning how to assassinate people. HIIT stands for ‘High Intensity Interval Training’–but I prefer to call it by its lesser known moniker:‘Horribly Illegal Individual Torture’. Being trapped for forty minutes in a smelly room with a bunch of smelly people, feeling like I’m going to die, is not something even my cute new workout clothes can make more enjoyable.
In fact, here is some of my inner dialogue that went on during class this evening:
“She said how much longer? She be crazy cause I can’t feel my legs…”
“I can’t breathe…I hope I’m not making any awkward noises…”
“Don’t throw up, don’t throw up, don’t throw up…”
So if this class is so horrible, why do I put myself through it? The answer is simple–it’s because I feel so great after I’m done!
Science has long supported that your brain fires off happiness hormones after you exercise, but did you know that it’s only in part due to the physical activity itself? One of those happiness neurochemicals, serotonin, is released because your brain realizes that you’ve accomplished something HARD. You’ve challenged yourself and your brain is rewarding you.
We’ve all heard the expression to ‘step out of your comfort zone’ when taking on something we aren’t comfortable with. I’ve never liked that phrase. I prefer ‘expand your comfort zone’ because it conveys growth and permanence rather than something more fleeting. I challenge you to expand your comfort zone within your offices, RMASFAA, and the financial aid profession. The more “I did it!” experiences you can recall day to day, the greater chance you’ll want to recreate those happiness-causing behaviors.
Expand your comfort zone and introduce yourself to someone new at the upcoming conference in South Dakota.
Expand your comfort zone by learning another area of your office that’s not your responsibility.
Expand your comfort zone and volunteer to present at a state or regional conference.
Expand your comfort zone and join a RMASFAA committee or say yes when offered the opportunity to chair a committee.
Expand your comfort zone and plan to participate in the Leadership Pipeline program.
Expand your comfort zone and earn a NASFAA credential in a topic you don’t feel adequate in.
Whatever expanding your comfort zone means to you personally, I hope you will be rewarded with a greater sense of purpose, accomplishment, and happiness. The cute workout clothes will just be an added bonus.
Association News Co-Chair
Dr. Seuss once said “You’re off to great places! Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting, so…get on your way!” The great Mountain for Mines University was indeed waiting for me. I had an incredible time, I learned so much and met wonderful people. The campus was beautiful and the scenery of the mountains was breathtaking. Once I checked in and was given the week schedule, I was amazed at how organized it was. I knew I wanted to participate in all the activities offered. I had been with Financial Aid for two months before attending RMASFAA Summer Institute. In my previous position as a TRIO academic advisor, I was comfortable with the FAFSA process. Yet, I was eager to learn as much as I could about Financial Aid.
I was part of the Hi-Ho-Cherry-O Neophyte track. Deanna and Angie were my instructors they were both friendly, understanding and so approachable. I met so many people that were beginners in Financial Aid and we could relate on so many levels. I discussed the School Certifying Official processes and procedures with Vicky Chance from Colby Community College. I ran into a previous TRIO colleague who is now the Financial Aid Director at Haskell University, it was so surprising to see her.
The morning walks were so much appreciated. I took advantage of the walks because I knew we will not have time to exercise during the day. I enjoyed eating at Market Mines, the food was great. Our Neophyte track typically sat together during dinner. It was a great opportunity to discuss the information that was presented. The NASFAA content presented at times was overwhelming, but it gave me the foundation to build an understanding of what Federal Financial Aid consist of. In my current position, I’m primarily responsible for verification. The verification guide has been so helpful. I heavily rely on the guide when I have questions.
My all-time favorite day was when Dan, Jessie, Erica and I explored downtown. We talked for hours as if we all knew each other for years. We exchanged life stories and work experience; we shared where we wanted our careers to take us. I had an unforgettable time at RMASFAA. The experience gave me the foundation I needed to build a strong and solid career within Financial Aid. I’m thankful I was a recipient of the DMCI Scholarship; I can honestly say that if it wasn’t for that award I may not have had an opportunity to attend. Thank you RMASFAA and the DMCI Committee for such a blessed opportunity.
The Diversity and Multicultural Initiatives Committee was hard at work this year, bringing awareness to the RMASFAA and financial aid community about multicultural and diversity related issues in higher education and financial aid. We could not have done it without each of our outstanding committee members:
Manuel Gant Bernal, Fort Lewis College, Durango CO
Nicole Casey, College of Saint Mary, Omaha NE
Eleni Beaty, Colorado State University, Ft. Collins CO
Julian Gomez, Southeast Community College, Lincoln, NE
La’Lisa Coley, Hutchinson Community College, Hutchinson KS
Sheelu Surender, Wichita State University, Wichita KS
Christian Gonzalez, University of Colorado-Boulder, Boulder CO
Dawn Nottingham, Colorado State University, Ft. Collins CO
Glo Hennig, Concordia University, Seward NE
Our committee once again offered opportunities for RMASFAA members to apply for the DMCI Scholarship to attend either Summer Institute or the RMASFAA Annual Conference. This year our committee received 22 total scholarship applications from 6 different states!
Scholarship winners for the Summer Institute scholarship were Yuliana Reyes from Emporia State University in Emporia, Kansas and Gerardo Saldana from the University of Nebraska in Lincoln, Nebraska. Scholarship winners for the Annual Conference were Ashlee Dutton from Pikes Peak Community College in Colorado Springs, CO and Angela Osborn from the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks, ND.
We also teamed up this year with the Leadership Pipeline Committee to offer a DMCI scholarship to one of the Leadership Pipeline Participants to help them attend the RMASFAA Annual Conference. This DMCI scholarship was awarded to Hayley Shipton from the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, UT.
CONGRATULATIONS to all of the DMCI Scholarship winners! Keep an eye on the RMASFAA Blog to read about their experiences at Summer Institute and the Annual Conference.
You may have already seen a couple of stories on the RMASFAA Blog from our committee this year. Dawn Nottingham wrote about cross-cultural communication tips, and we shared some information about the RealLife101 scholarship organization.
We also have arranged for a unique experience during the RMASFAA Annual Conference in Rapid City, South Dakota. Members of the Black Hills Powwow Association will be performing a cultural dance/song and discussing Native American culture for us. This is intended to be a new and exciting way for us all to become more aware of a diverse cultural group that we work with as financial aid professionals. We hope to see all of you in Rapid City in October!
If you have any experience working with underrepresented communities or are passionate about advocating for these communities through diversity awareness initiatives, please consider volunteering for the DMCI committee this upcoming year. This is a great committee to volunteer for if you are new to financial aid. We hold most of our meetings via email or conference call, so everyone will be a valued member of the committee.
Chair, DMCI Committee
Words cannot express how anxious I was moving into the President-Elect position on the Board of Directors!! The process of soliciting nominations and recruiting candidates can be very intimidating when you are working in an eight-state area! But I should have known going in that RMASFAA is no ordinary region and that our spirit of volunteerism and commitment to the organization is unparalleled. With the help of the committee members listed at the bottom of this report, we were able to put together an amazing list of nominees by April 1st. The committee then met on April 8th via conference call to “vet” the nominees, with the full understanding that if I couldn’t recruit two candidates for each office, we would need to go back to the drawing board. Fortunately, that was not necessary. In one week’s time I was able to put together a full slate of candidates for the ballot, and election commenced.
The results of the election are as follows:
President-Elect, Kenneth Kocer, Mount Marty College (SD)
Vice-President, Stephanie Covington, University of Kansas (KS)
Treasurer-Elect, Becca Dobry, University of Nebraska at Kearney (NE)
Secretary, Erin Richards, South Dakota School of Mines & Tech (SD)
Associate Member Delegate, Natalie Englbrecht, Financial Aid TV (CO)
And here is the committee that helped make this possible!
Robb Cummings – Sallie Mae
John Curl – Utah Valley University
Kay Dinkelman – University of Nebraska – Lincoln
Kelli Engelhardt – University of Great Falls
Eileen Griego – Colorado State University
Micah Hansen – South Dakota State University
Brenda D Hicks – Southwestern College
Janelle R Kilgore – University of North Dakota – Grand Forks
Julie D Wilson – Laramie County Community College
A big thank you to the committee, the candidates who agreed to run for office, and the entire RMASFAA organization for your enthusiasm and commitment to this amazing association!
2015-16 RMASFAA President-Elect
Chair, Nominations & Elections Committee