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Washington Update- Back to School Fall 2014 - Frank Ballmann
Washington Update- Late Spring 2014 - Frank Ballmann
NASSGAP Reauthorization Letter - NASSGAP
     Letter from NASSGAP to the House Committee on Education and the Workforce and the House Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training.
Washington Update - Spring 2013 - Frank Ballmann
Washington Update- The Year Ahead  - Frank Ballmann
The Looming Fiscal Cliffs - Frank Ballmann, NASSGAP
How to Pay Less and Graduate Sooner - Frank Ballmann, NASSGAP
Dual Enrollment in Nebraska - Nebraska
     In the late 1990’s, dual-enrollment increased significantly in Nebraska. However, there was a concern the growth was primarily by students from middle and high-income families. Studies have shown that high school students who take dual-enrollment coursework (a class where a student receives both high school and college credit) graduate at higher rates, matriculate to college at higher rates, and return for their sophomore year in college at higher rates than students who do not take dual-enrollment coursework.

Since one of Nebraska’s education goals is to increase the college going rate of high school graduates, encouraging students to take dual-enrollment course work seemed like a perfect place to start. However, to receive the college credit, students must pay tuition to the college. While many colleges offer a reduced rate to these students, some students from low-income families might not even be able to afford the reduced rate. That is why Nebraska’s Coordinating Commission for Postsecondary Education (CCPE) recommended the state create the Access College Early Scholarship (ACE).

ACE pays the tuition for eligible low-income, Nebraska high school students who take dual-enrollment courses for credit from colleges. These students complete a scholarship application that is signed by the student, the student’s parent/guardian, and the student’s high school guidance counselor, which is then forwarded to the CCPE for review. Concurrently, the students sign up for the dual-enrollment course(s) through the high school and college. Once the application and the enrollment process are complete, the CCPE and the college work together in awarding the scholarship to the student.

In 2007-08, the first year the scholarship was available, 363 ACE scholarships totaling $114,856 were awarded to 294 Nebraska high school students from 110 high schools. These students registered for 1,698 credit hours at 11 Nebraska colleges and universities. In 2008-09, 825 scholarships totaling $216,754 were awarded to 643 students from 135 high schools. These students registered for 3,050 credit hours. In 2009-10, 1,302 scholarships totaling $339,624 were awarded to 1,020 students from 191 high schools who registered for 4,558 credit hours. However, showing the growth of the program was not enough. Were ACE recipients continuing on to college?

Using records from the Nebraska Department of Education, the CCPE calculated the college going rate for low-income (defined as those students who participated in the free/reduced price lunch program) and non-low-income students (defined as those students who did not participate in the free/reduced price lunch program) who graduated from Nebraska high schools and compared those figures to the college going rate of ACE recipients. For students who graduated in 2007-08, the college continuation rate for non-low-income students was 74.1%, for low-income students was 50.5%, but 83.7% for ACE recipients. For students who graduated in 2008-09, non-low-income graduates had a college continuation rate of 75.5%, low-income graduates had a 51.1% rate, while ACE recipients continued at an 80.6% rate. For 2009-10 graduates, the college continuation rate for non-low-income students was 77.7%, low-income graduates had a 53.8% rate, while ACE recipients had a college going rate of 77.4%. For a program created to encourage students to go on to college after high school graduation, ACE was a success. Additionally, these students will be monitored to see if they successfully graduated from a college with a degree.

The success of the ACE scholarship program has led to significant support from the Governor and the Legislature. In 2009 during a special session of the Legislature to address a budget deficit, ACE was the only state program not to receive a cut in funding.

If you have any questions regarding Nebraska’s ACE scholarship program please do not hesitate to contact Ritchie.Morrow@nebraska.gov.
Washington Update – Welcome Back! - Frank Ballmann
     Back to school for students, back to work from vacation for many of us, and back to more budget battles in Washington.

In case you missed it, Congress passed and the President signed a debt ceiling increase in early August that potentially resolves the debt ceiling debate until 2013. Unfortunately, this bill doesn’t wrap up budget issues until 2013 – in fact, the Budget Control Act of 2011(BCA) means the wrangling is just getting underway.

Key Points from the BCA

The BCA cuts discretionary spending by $917 billion over ten years and raises the debt ceiling in two steps: $400 billion immediately and then a second increase of $500 billion which Congress can object to, but a Presidential veto option to the objection process (yes, it’s complicated) essentially makes the second increase a done deal. The BCA also creates a 12-member Joint Select Committee (a/k/a “Super Committee”) to produce a proposal to reduce the deficit by an additional $1.5 trillion through 2021. This Committee is composed of three each Republicans and Democrats from both the House and the Senate.

Senate Democrats
Murray (WA) Co-Chair
Kerry (MA)
Baucus (MT)

Senate Republicans
Kyl (AZ)
Portman (OH)
Toomey (PA)

House Democrats
Van Hollen (MD)
Clyburn (SC)
Becerra (CA)

House Republicans
Hensarling (TX) Co-Chair
Upton (MI)
Camp (MI)

The Pell Grant program fared (relatively) well in the BCA, receiving an additional $17 billion in funding over two years to cover most of the current and projected shortfalls in the program while preserving the maximum grant level at $5,550. Unfortunately, the BCA eliminates the interest subsidy for subsidized Stafford loans to graduate students and eliminates timely payment incentives for new FDLP loans, although the electronic payment incentive is retained and existing loans are not affected.

What’s Next

The Joint Committee has less than three months to come to a bi-partisan agreement on how to reduce the deficit by another $1.5 trillion (or more). If they do not reach an agreement cutting the deficit by at least $1.2 trillion that is also passed by the House and Senate and signed into law, the federal budget automatically goes into a “sequestration” process, in which the spending cuts are made automatically, split 50-50 between defense and non-defense appropriations. Certain programs, including Pell, would be exempt from the sequestration process, so non-exempt programs may face cuts of about 9%. But these sequestration cuts would not take effect until January 2013.

As if that’s not enough budget excitement for the rest of the year, there’s one other little detail Congress needs to address when it returns from recess after Labor Day: the budget for the federal fiscal year that begins on October 1, 2011. That’s right, only about three weeks after they return. If Congress does not pass a budget by September 30, either the federal government will face a shutdown or Congress will need to pass a Continuing Resolution (CR), as was done a few times in the previous budget cycle, to keep the government operating while a budget is finalized.

Well, I hope everyone had a great summer. Feel free to contact me with questions about any of the above issues.

Frank Ballmann
Director, Federal Relations
Federal Update Summer 2011.doc - Frank Ballmann
     Ah, summer! I think most everyone fondly remembers the last day of school each year of our childhood. We enjoy the thrill of no school for at least a couple of months, and the anticipation of the family vacation. I recently heard the old classic rock standard that seems to get more airplay in June than throughout the rest of the year combined: Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out”. I think the lyric “School’s out for summer; school’s out forever!” captures the imagination and dreams of many high school graduates, but after a few days (or weeks) of fun, reality sets in. What’s next?

The reality, over the past 35+ years since the song was released, is that school isn’t really out forever, and higher education is right around the corner for many teenagers. I recently attended a presentation in which it was noted that the number of jobs not requiring at least some college education has remained the same (actually, they declined a bit) in the United States over the past 35 years. Yes, that’s right; every net new job in America in the last 35 years requires at least some college, if not a bachelor’s or advanced degree.

Another interesting statistic from the same presentation is that “traditional” college students (i.e., 18-24 year olds) now represent 45 percent of enrolled college students. So I guess the new “traditional” student is someone older looking to obtain the job skills for the 21st century – and that many who thought school’s out forever have since reconsidered.

Unfortunately, there are some folks who seem to be advocating that school should be out forever. They cite the growth in the Pell Grant program as unsustainable and call for cuts to the maximum grant, and this proposal comes after the federal fiscal year 2011 budget eliminated funding for LEAP, a program that provided matching funds to state higher education grant programs that could be targeted by the states to best meet the needs of each state’s students. While the Pell Grant maximums have increased significantly in the recent past, they have barely kept up with inflation, as measured by the Consumer Price Index (CPI) over the past 35+ years since the program’s inception. This, of course, means that the Pell maximums have not kept up with the rate of tuition inflation, which exceeds the CPI rate by a (un)healthy margin.

While our country faces significant challenges relative to the federal budget and the national debt, cutting back the Pell Grant program is not the way to go. Pell grants pave the road to the higher paying jobs that America’s students strive for and enable students to obtain the skills that American employers need to fill the jobs of the 21st century. While many talk sincerely about not wanting our grandchildren to inherit an unsustainable national debt, the best way to avoid that debt is to provide the path to higher education that our children need to earn college degrees that prepare them for the jobs that will grow the American economy. In turn, those higher salaries will grow tax revenue in a way that more than pays for a well-managed Pell Grant program.

To cut Pell Grant funding to meet a short-term budget goal would be like selling your car because you wanted to save the monthly car payment. At first glance, your budget looks better, but now you don’t have a way to get to work. Not such a bright idea after all, is it?

The College Board recently released a study on the challenges faced by today’s high school graduates of color. For me, the most shocking statistic was that nearly half of young men of color age 15 to 24 who graduate from high school will end up unemployed, incarcerated or dead. These are high school GRADUATES, not drop-outs. People who are unemployed, incarcerated, or dead are not contributing to the American economy and represent a failure of the American dream.
Let us all hope that when we look back 35 years from now on the results of higher education for the next generation that we have preserved the path to a renewed prosperity through a strong and vibrant Pell Grant program that has continued its great success story of enabling deserving students, without regard to economic resources, to obtain a college degree. And perhaps a new artist will release an anthem focusing on the need for all of us to continually update our skills: “School’s out for summer; school’s IN forever!”

Frank Ballmann
Director, Washington Office
President's Comments - Vicki Merkel
     President’s Message to NASSGAP Members and Our Colleagues

Many NASSGAP member agencies and members are experiencing what seems like an unprecedented time of change. The Great Recession coupled with business model changes are forcing these agencies to restructure. In most states, funding for our basic state financial aid programs is at best stressed, and at worst decreased or suspended. Federally funded programs are in the same situation with S/LEAP and Byrd, among others, not included in the most recent budget.

I’ve been receiving questions about NASSGAP’s purpose and relevancy in this time of change. With S/LEAP gone are there other federal discussions NASSGAP should join? Should we acknowledge the access to postsecondary education work that many member agencies provide and include access in our mission statement? Will membership be sustainable? In light of 2011 and these questions, I have reviewed the NASSGAP Organization Objectives and given some thought to each one.”

Section 1. To promote, strengthen, encourage and enhance high standards of performance in administration and operation of government-sponsored postsecondary student financial aid programs to the end that the benefits of these programs shall be available to students in all the states for the purpose of expanding and furthering postsecondary educational opportunities.

NASSGAP member agencies are often leaders in government-sponsored financial aid and access programs. A recent NASSGAP poll found that 23 of 29 states that responded are the College Access Challenge Grant Programs (CACG) designated agency for their state. More than half of respondents believe NASSGAP should increase advocacy for CACG.

Section 2. To provide a forum for the development and exchange of information, ideas, policy positions, procedures and needs for student financial assistance for the benefit of member agencies and other organizations.

Our Washington D.C. consultant, Frank Ballmann continues to communicate regularly with organizations we have worked with for many years such as Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance and has made a point this past year of reaching out to student organizations as well.

Section 3. To facilitate the development and exchange of information about state student employment programs.

Employment is a top issue throughout the country and student employment programs provide needed financial aid and resume building work experience.

Section 4. To establish and act as a collective voice of reasoned opinion before state, regional and national councils with respect to student financial aid programs whose objective is the furtherance of postsecondary education in the United States, including grants, scholarships, loans, college work-study, and other forms of government-sponsored assistance to students. To consider, debate, decide positions, make recommendations and otherwise act as an advising body on such matters as, in the judgment of the Association, shall serve the objectives set forth in this article.

NASSGAP has joined in the national conversation regarding higher education and provided written support for continuation of Pell Grant award amounts. NASSGAP alerts member agencies when federal issues are being debated.

Section 5. To collaborate with other associations, councils and agencies in the interest of effective implementation of various federal, state and institutional student financial assistance programs.

Member agencies discuss their various state issues with one another at the annual conference. The NASSGAP member Polling feature allows member agencies to quickly ask for information such as “Does your state-funded need grant program include merit components?” And “ What NASSGAP agencies are administering the Education and Training Voucher Program?”

Section 6. To work with other associations, councils and agencies to design, implement and operate simplified student application procedures for student financial assistance and design a uniform method of determining the ability of the family to pay the costs of postsecondary education.

NASSGAP member agencies worked with the Department of Education this past year to pilot the FAFSA on the Web Interface where students can move seamlessly from the FAFSA to their state’s grant aid application.

Section 7. To conduct research, publish reports, hold conferences and otherwise engage in activities which: (1) help existing programs to become more responsive to federal, regional and state public policy goals and objectives; (2) encourage the development of new programs as the need arises; (3) work toward the prevention and elimination of fraud and abuse in student financial aid programs; and (4) enable the organization to accomplish the objectives set forth in this Article.

Forty Annual Survey Reports are posted on the NASSGAP website along with the Custom Query Builder (CQB) tool which allows end users easy access to a wide range of data, and the flexibility to customize how the data is organized and presented.

Section 8. The financial goal of NASSGAP will be to have sufficient funds in an available, otherwise unencumbered account to cover all contractual agreements. Any funds in excess of that amount should be placed in low-risk investment vehicles in order to receive the maximum return possible on said funds. The value of the reserve will be calculated annually by the Treasurer and recommended to the Executive Committee.

The organization took preventative steps to maintain financial solvency during these extreme economic times by finding a creative alternative to funding a Washington D.C. consultant. New York State partners with NASSGAP to allow Frank Ballmann to work on NASSGAP issues. Frank keeps NASSGAP informed and engaged with national issues.

NASSGAP remains dedicated to these objectives and to working toward a strong state and federal partnership in the delivery of student financial aid, but it also seeks to ensure it recognizes and addresses the changing face of financial aid and the changing needs of its members, constituents and partners. Our upcoming Fall 2011 conference to be held at Gallaudet University in Washington D.C. on October 15 -19 will be a chance to continue this conversation and keep NASSGAP on the right path. If you are a NASSGAP member, I encourage you to join us in Washington. I welcome comments from both members and nonmembers.

You may email me at president@nassgap.org

Vicki Merkel, NASSGAP President 2010-11
Remembering LEAP - Jamie H. Dushin
     Now that Congress has figured out the FY11 budget mess, the low hanging fruit of a program, Leveraging Educational Assistance Partnership (LEAP) has finally been picked. Eliminated by Presidential budgets since Ronald Reagan, the program was always in the past able to find the Congressional support needed to save it, which was not the case this budget cycle.

In 1972 Congress created two new major grant programs. One was the Basic Educational Opportunity Grant (BEOG), which later became known as the Pell Grant program, and the other the State Student Incentive Grant (SSIG), which later became known as LEAP. The original mission of SSIG was to encourage states to match Federal dollars with state funded need-based programs. Within four years of the creation of SSIG, 22 states established need-based aid programs to match Federal dollars. Peak Federal funding for the program came in the FFY 1979 and 1980 budgets at $76 million (recent years has been stable at $64 million). In 1998 SSIG became LEAP with all funding over $30 million being Special LEAP (SLEAP). SLEAP was replaced in 2008 by the Grants for Access and Persistence (GAP) program.

The matching of Federal dollars allowed states to create unique need-based grant and work-study programs to fit their specific situations. These unique state programs served hundreds of thousands of students annually. States have, in recent years, matched the LEAP program in the neighborhood of $1 billion each year. The most recent information from the NASSGAP survey show that nearly 60% of recipients in LEAP related state programs come from families making under $20,000.

A report by NASSGAP in 2006 found that eliminating the LEAP program would eliminate more than 77,000 awards to this population of students in desperate need of funding. The report also found that at least five states believed eliminating LEAP would lead to the complete elimination of the associated state programs.

LEAP has for nearly 40 years worked in a complementary fashion with other Federal, state, and institutional need-based programs to fight the major unmet need problems faces by students. Unfortunately, there is now one less program and at least $64 million less dollars available to help these students.

Maybe if we all cross our fingers we will see a stunning return of this valuable program in next year’s budget fight.

Jamie H. Dushin
Montana University System, MGSLP
LEAP in Kansas - Diane Lindeman
The federal LEAP program has been on the chopping block during every presidential administration dating back to Richard Nixon. Strong lobbying efforts from legislators, who have seen the value of the program and organizations such as NASSGAP, have managed to retain it in the last hour. But this year, with the strength of the Republican leadership and the lack of support from the current administration it appears more likely than ever that we may see the demise of the program.

The LEAP program, first created in 1972, has been a way for states to be able to support their primary need-based student aid programs, which have also faced cuts or elimination. The end of the program would mean that thousands of needy low-income students will not receive funding that might make a difference in whether they are able to attend postsecondary institutions.

Proponents of the elimination of LEAP, including the federal Department of Education, say that the program has outlived its usefulness. A report from the department said that “federal assistance for state need-based aid programs is no longer necessary because most states have their own programs.” In the most recent data available from the National Association of State Student Grant and Aid Programs, all 50 states and the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, spent a total of $10.3 billion on student financial aid in the 2008-09 academic year. For some states, the federal LEAP funding is all that has been keeping some programs from being completed eliminated. In at least two states, the federal-state LEAP partnership is the only need-based program. Now with state budget cuts and the expectation of the loss of LEAP funding, it could be the end of some state’s only need-based grant programs.

The state of Kansas received $854,312 in LEAP funding for the 2010-11 academic year. This funding is co-mingled with our largest need-based grant program, the Kansas Comprehensive Grant (KCG), and makes up about 5% of total funding for the program. The average grant award is $1,535. This amount awards roughly about 557 students in the KCG program. This represents about 5% of the students who are awarded. Although this may not seem like a lot of students it does have an impact. Our state funding in the KCG program was cut 5% last year. If you add another 557 students to represent this cut, for a total of 1,114 students, this now represents 10% of Kansas students who would no longer receive funding. How do you tell over 1,100 students that we don’t have any money to help support their postsecondary education at a time when the message from our federal and state politicians is to “re-invent yourself” and “go back to school and become trained in a new field”? This is a contradictory message.

We all know that there is a huge federal budget deficit. We know that there have to be budget cuts. But, we also know how vital an educated populace is to our country. Cutting student financial aid programs are not the place to go to balance the budget. Disenfranchising students from the opportunity for advancement in life should really never be an option. John F. Kennedy once said: “In our democracy every young person should have an equal opportunity to obtain a higher education, regardless of his station in life or financial means.” The LEAP program has been successful. It can continue to be successful. Just ask the thousands, actually millions, of students who have been recipients of its funding over the last thirty years. They will tell you how the opportunity to obtain an education has made all the difference in their lives.

Diane Lindeman
Director of Student Financial Assistance
Kansas Board of Regents
Kentucky LEAP Anecdote - Frank Ballmann
     The Leveraging Educational Assistance Partnership (LEAP) program provides federal matching funds to states that provide need-based grants to economically disadvantaged students. Funding for this program has remained level at around $64-65 million for a few years. If one looks at the program as simply a line item in a budget, it might seem easy to cut, a small program, and some may think it is duplicative of other federal programs, such as the Pell Grant program.

Recently, however, I had an experience which led me to quite the opposite conclusion. In 2009, I decided to provide a scholarship for students in the rural small town in Kentucky where my father was born and raised. I reached out to the pastor of the church my father attended and asked him to make students aware of the program and collect applications. Having worked in the student aid community for the most of the last three decades, and having received grant, scholarship, and loan aid as well, I wanted to make sure the scholarship was going to a student with financial need. I asked that any applicant provide a copy of their aid award letter from their college for need verification.

What stood out to me was that each of the applicants was receiving a Pell grant, a LEAP grant, and a maximum Stafford loan (i.e., they were getting every bit of grant and low cost loan aid available to them). That moment was when the light bulb lit up: if LEAP funding is cut, these students have already maxed out their financial aid options and will likely be unable to fill the gap in their budgets that would result from a LEAP (or Pell) cut. None of them would qualify for a private loan and their family budgets (most LEAP recipients’ family incomes are under $20,000) are unlikely to have a spare couple of thousand dollars to cover a cut in grant aid.

Cutting LEAP and Pell will rip the ladder to graduation out from underneath hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of students, right at the time many of these rising sophomores, juniors, and seniors are gearing up to fill the high need jobs that America needs to remain competitive in the next decade.

And from what I’ve read about the applicants for my scholarship, Kentucky will have (at least) one less nurse and one less teacher.

Frank Ballmann
Federal Liaison
National Association of State Student Grant and Aid Programs
Washington Update 2011 - Frank Ballman
     A new year often brings resolutions, efforts to be better and do better, and optimism that this year will be our best one yet. In Washington, this new year also welcomes a new, and very different, Congress. There are many resolutions and promises, and I believe most of the American public is hoping Congress can work in a bipartisan manner to improve the economy and get job growth “back on track”.

There is much talk in Congress about “investing in jobs” and cutting spending, but many different approaches to what that means and how those goals might be accomplished. Taking steps towards those goals perhaps requires taking a step back and trying to identify some common ground on which substantially all Americans (and thus, both parties) might be in agreement.

There is an old saying that if a person is hungry and you give them a meal, you feed them for a day, but teach them to fish and you feed them for life. I think the modern day equivalent of this saying is that if you buy them a meal, you feed them for a day, but if you give them an education, you feed them for life. Except, I think, that this updated version understates the value of an education and, in particular, the investment value to the federal (and state) government.

A long time ago, I was a high school senior with good grades and was admitted a very good, but expensive, college. My Dad had recently lost his job, and my Mom was working in a job that paid little more than minimum wage; I was working nights and weekends as a dishwasher in a restaurant. Fortunately, federal grant, loan, and college work-study programs enabled me to go to college and earn a degree. I would estimate the cost to, or rather, investment by, the US taxpayer totaled (reflecting loan subsidies, grant cost, etc.) under $10,000.

While we will never know how much I would have earned if I never went to college, I think it is safe to say that the incremental federal taxes I have paid since then are well in excess of $100,000. I don’t think I am alone among college graduates in that regard. The federal taxpayer gets an incredible return on dollars invested in higher education. In my case, and many others coming from lower and middle income families, the return is well in excess of 1000%.

Illinois conducted a study, which was published and discussed in the Wall Street Journal several years ago, in which they determined that, on average, every dollar invested in the state grant program produced a return of about 250% in additional state and local tax revenues. Obviously, with federal income tax rates being higher, the return to the federal taxpayer on Pell dollars is significantly better.

So, coming back to the subject of government spending and investing in jobs, any discussion of funding for Pell grants and other aid programs should fall under the category of “investing in jobs”, not spending. I am not aware of any program funded by government that can claim a return to the taxpayer of over 1000%. There should be no higher priority for investing in jobs than ensuring that all deserving students can attend college to prepare themselves for the jobs of the 21st century.

Frank Ballmann
Federal Liaison
National Association of State Student Grant and Aid Programs
Welcome - Vickie Merkel
     NASSGAP President Vicki Merkel, 2010-11

NASSGAP maintains communication with the U.S. Department of Education and other national partners regarding financial aid and college access, persistence and completion efforts.

The association also provides strong communication and networking for members through its annual conference, committee work, membership polls, and annual survey to share national level concerns and the states’ unique solutions to helping students.

Our website has many useful features – many of which are available AT NO COST to the general public - including a wealth of data contained in NASSGAP’s Repository of Annual Survey Reports on State-Sponsored Student Aid from 1969 to present, and its accompanied powerful Online Query tool.

Other significant features within this website that are offered to the public and members alike include but are not limited to:

• Online Library of resources/research
• NASSGAP Membership Directory
• NASSGAP Calendar folder which lists aid-related conferences nationwide

Members are offered additional information/data that cannot be found elsewhere including the online poll/survey tool within the Virtual Office, Conference presentations, organizational correspondence and decades of organizational and state agency program history.

Thank you for visiting our website and we encourage you to explore the entire site.

Best Regards,
     President Lois Hollis:

Dear Colleagues,

On October 23, 2009 NASSGAP submitted its comments on the proposed draft of the 2010-2011 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). It is a thoughtfully-crafted letter about, without a doubt, a form that is most critical to every state grant agency. You can find it in the "Don't Miss" section on the homepage (up top on the left-hand side). I encourage all members to read it.

NASSGAP is also providing comments on the proposed changes to the FAFSA on the Web (FOTW) as described in supplemental documents available on the USDE (Department) web site.

On 1/21/09 OPE released their “Report to Congress on Efforts to Simplify the FAFSA”.

As noted in the Transmittal Letter the Report was written in response to provisions included in the 2008 Higher Education Opportunity Act which required the Secretary Spellings to submit a report to Congress on her efforts to simplify the FAFSA.

The materials sent to Congress include the truncated and relatively ominous FAFSA draft the Depart. circulated months ago.

Efforts to simplify the FAFSA are serious. Many of the suggestions on how to accomplish it – including the President’s suggestion of eliminating the FAFSA in favor of using IRS filings - have been offered with the best of intentions.

However, NASSGAP fears few public policy figures realize the degree to which states use FAFSA data to compute state grant awards.
Thanks Marilyn, Welcome Lee - Presidental Changes
     NASSGAP’s Fall 2008 conference in New Orleans was a tremendous success; conference presentations have been posted to the site. Members extend their sincere gratitude to outgoing NASSGAP President Marilyn Cargill for her relentless work this past year in representing the organization by tracking issues ranging from The College Cost Reduction and Access Act of 2007, and The Reauthorization of the Higher Education Act of 2008.

Much work remains ahead of us all with respect to determining the impact that the various provisions in the Reauthorized Higher Education Act of 2008 will have on states, from simplification to GAP.

NASSGAP’s new President, Lee Andes, is well equipped to lead the organization forward but will need input and support from member states in crafting positions with respect to the new provisions, including others that are in the offing.

In the meantime members and interested parties are invited to investigate and use NASSGAP’s newly-deployed "Online Library" of research, articles of interest and related data. NASSGAP's Online Library is a powerful new tool which will grow over time. Soon Research Committee Chair, Cheryl Maplethorpe, will develop a process that will allow members to submit articles to the Research Committee for library posting consideration. Stay tuned!
NASSGAP's 38th Annual Survey Report
     ...President Cargill.
I’m pleased to announce the publication of NASSGAP's 38th Annual Survey Report. This is the only survey of its kind and is used by respected researchers nationwide as the definitive source of state-funded student aid.

Survey data show that in 2006-2007, states awarded a total of $9.3 billion of student financial aid of all types, an increase of 10 percent from the $8.5 billion awarded in 2005-06. States continue to focus on grant aid making more than 3.7 million awards representing $7.6 billion in need and non-need-based grant aid. Despite the downturn in the national economy, state undergraduate grant aid efforts increased more than 4% in real terms, demonstrating the importance placed on investing in higher education by NASSGAP member agencies, state legislatures, and state leadership. Aid of all types that considers financial need, important to working families across the country, accounts for more than $5.2 billion of the $8.2 billion in aid reported as awarded to undergraduates. States have also remained committed to awarding special purpose aid targeting veterans and National Guard members, as well as teachers and nurses who serve in needy communities.

I want to bring your attention to a powerful online Query Tool we developed to assist interested parties in mining Annual Survey data further. The Query Tool is available to members and nonmembers provided you register per the instructions. You can find, register, log in, access the tool and save your data at: http://www.nassgap.org/customquery

We'd love to hear from those who have used the data for published research, internal reports, white papers and the like and we're are also interested in hearing about ways the survey could be improved.

Finally, in addition to thanking states for participating in the survey, I want to acknowledge Mike Solomon and the Illinois Student Assistance Commission (ISAC) for the outstanding work done in collecting and vetting the data and publishing the Report. Questions regarding survey data should be directed to me at 802-655-9602 or Mike Solomon at 217-524-7933.