by George Gately, CCA
     NCAG Member since 2012
     Past Board President

All of the students in the high school graduating Class of 2023, and their families, will be affected by the changes in the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Some will find a more generous offer of assistance; some less generous.

The Federal Student Aid Office has delayed implementation of some of the changes (but not all) initiated in response to the FAFSA Simplification Act, and the FUTURE Act (congressional legislation of December, 2020). Specifics, at the time of this writing, are not delineated, other than in broad outline. Nevertheless, as IEC's we are in the midst of working with students who are rising 11th graders, perhaps rising 10th graders and younger. Therefore, for planning purposes we will prove our professional bona fides by knowing what is coming, regardless of the date of FSA's actions.

The greatest, and potentially negative impact will be on
  • families of divorce
  • families with more than one student in college at the same time
  • small business owners
  • family farm owners.
Here is a summary of current, or soon-to-be-implemented changes:
  • EFC (Expected Family Contribution) becomes SAI (Student Aid Index). SAI is defined as the amount of financial resources of a family available to pay for college. We are assured the difference in nomenclature is substantially that alone. Experience warns us that is probably not accurate in effect. With the replacement of the Data Retrieval Tool (DRT) with the Direct Data Transfer (FADDX), tax returns become more determinative of basic, financial qualification.
  • NEED = COA SAI OFA (other financial assistance). Professional Judgment (PJ) discretion is expanded (or relaxed, depending on how you want to consider it). Furthermore, no school may hold a "No PJ Policy." PJ must be considered, but with no requirement for application of PJ overall, or in particular instances. PJ simply must be documented in the records.
  • Families of divorce will be asked which parent provides the most financial support for the student (rather than, with whom is the student living one-half of a year plus one day, or longer). As of the date of this publication, no time parameters are determined. What does that mean? I can't say for sure, other than it means college financial aid offices are going to dig deeper into the financial arrangements of families of divorce.
  • Child Support will no longer be counted as "untaxed income," but rather as a parent asset.
  • The current asset exclusion of family-owned businesses and family-owned farms is gone. The asset value of each shall be included in the SAI calculation.
  • Simplified Needs Test (which removes assets from an SAI calculation) is based on AGI under $60,000.
  • The number of family members in college at the same time, as a consideration, will be fazed out; although I suspect that PJ will allow for that to be considered. Therefore, it should be noted in "Other Information" provided to the colleges.
Two other considerations represent the proverbial double-edged sword. One is that the end of PELL Grant eligibility after 12 semesters is removed. The other side is that Direct Student Loan time limit of 150% of satisfactory academic progress is also removed. Students will be able to drag out their college education beyond six years. That may assist some students in extraordinary circumstances. Many more students, I suspect, will find it as an easy way to remain in college and delay career-level earnings (which contributes materially to the opportunity cost of higher education, and consequently, reduces the value of a bachelor's degree during a working lifetime).

More can be said, but I refer you to the FSA website (here), and to the FSA Conference 2021 recordings (here: GS5 - FAFSA SIMPLIFICATION).

Posted in Financial Aid.

Students Win When They Communicate

By Melissa Brock
Pella, IA
Official Blogger for NCAG

I spent 12 years working in college admission. Over the course of time, college admission became more and more a transactional experience. By the time I left the field, I was lucky to talk to a parent over the phone, much less a student. After meeting with a family in the admission office, I had a better chance of hearing from them again, but it wasn't always guaranteed. It was truly a hands-off experience in the end.

In 2012, most teens said their favorite way to communicate with friends was "in person." In 2018, most teens said they liked texting best (35%), according to Common Sense, a children's and media advocacy organization. Less than one third in 2018 said they prefer chatting with friends face-to-face.

We already knew that, right? 

Here's the issue: Families often don't believe they need to communicate with the admission office or build a deep relationship with their admission counselor. In fact, I don't think it even occurs to them, or more likely, they don't have the time to develop a relationship. Result: The admission counselor seems like a piece of furniture.  

I badly wanted to build relationships with students. I wanted to talk to them, hear their stories. While I managed hundreds of applicants, the ones who stood out were the handful of students who reached out to me. The students who knew our admission counselors scored an advantage, there's no doubt about it -- they gained access to more opportunities.

Imagine this: Your family hits it off with an admission counselor, and later on, that admission counselor has a conversation with a science professor who happens to mention, "I need a student assistant in my introductory chemistry class this semester." 

The admission counselor may say, "I happen to know a student! I just met him and he'd be fantastic!"

This actually happened, and my student secured an excellent work-study job. This also led to a professional relationship that has lasted to this day -- the student has since left graduate school (on the professor's recommendation) and is in the workforce!

My favorite students received the best hints on how to choose the right residence hall, introductions to alumni, even meetings with the president. I even recommended students I knew for an independent scholarship that the professors were giving away. 

Does this always mean that your students will gain additional access to more financial aid? No. Not necessarily. However, I still suggest that the families you work with build a relationship with admission counselors or admission offices of the schools they're interested in, you may gain access to certain advantages.


Posted in College Admissions Criteria.


Here's what we have:
DIRECT STUDENT LOANS (subsidized/unsubsidized): 4.993%
  • 2021-2022 Rate was 3.734%
  • 2020-2021 Rate was 2.75%

  • 2021-2022 Rate was 5.284%
  • 2020-2021 Rate was 4.30%

PLUS - for Parents and Graduate Students: 7.543%
  • 2021-2022 Rate was 6.284%
  • 2020-2021 Rate was 5.30% 

For the update NCAG wishes to thank Stuart Siegel (Idaho) one of our most tenured members, and owner of FAFSASoft.com.

Posted in Financial Aid.