Release Notes

New release notes will be published to this page monthly to provide a quick glimpse at what people are clicking most, hot topics related to Congressional or U.S. Department of Education happenings, lists of new resources and partners, and more.

 

January 2022

What's New

In January, a new group of negotiators geared up for another Department of Education (ED) negotiated rulemaking — or “neg reg” — session, this time focusing on a number of topics including the “90/10 loophole," gainful employment (GE), financial responsibility, administrative capability, and more. Ahead of this session, NASFAA in January published a Gainful Employment Web Center, which provides a broad overview of the history of the GE regulations since 2011. Included are summaries of the three previous rulemaking sessions, links to ED documents, and NASFAA analysis and coverage.

This neg reg session comes on the heels of another deliberation that wrapped up in December, when negotiators reached consensus on four of 12 topics: total and permanent disability discharge, eliminating interest capitalization for nonstatutory capitalization events, false certification discharge, and Pell Grant eligibility for Prison Education Programs. 

In late December, ED announced that it would again extend the payment pause for federally-held student loans through May 1. The announcement came after months of pressure from Democratic lawmakers and student loan advocates who warned resuming payments after the pause expires on Jan. 31, 2022 would leave millions of borrowers struggling as the pandemic continues.

Also in January, financial aid was in the spotlight as a group of 16 colleges and universities were sued by five former students who allege the schools colluded to determine financial aid offers for students, unfairly limiting financial aid offers by utilizing a shared methodology to calculate financial need.

Read on for a look at what’s new this month in the Ref Desk and check out what you may have missed in previous months on the release notes page.

 

Trending Topics

Terms that are getting the most clicks and search traffic right now include: 

  1. Direct Loans
  2. Return of Title IV Funds (R2T4)
  3. Verification
  4. Expected Family Contribution (EFC)
  5. Student Eligibility
  6. Institutional Eligibility
  7. Pell Grant
  8. Program Participation Agreement (PPA)

The list of trending topics in January held steady, with Direct Loans continuing to top the list as the most viewed term in the Ref Desk. Direct Loans likely saw a surge in late December and early January due to the ED’s decision on Dec. 22, 2021 to again extend the payment pause for federally-held student loans through May 1, 2022.

Pell Grant likely saw a surge in interest due to the focus on the federal program and its role in Prison Education Programs during ED’s most recent negotiated rulemaking session.

 

New Resources

In the past month, we have added 11 new resources, including new chapters from the Federal Student Aid Handbook, electronic announcements from the Department of Education, and articles and reports from a variety of sources. Below are some topical areas to check out and newly added resources for each.

 

Cash Management

Disbursement records (submission to ED)

Electronic Announcement, 11/23/21 (GENERAL-21-79)

Direct Loans

Limited Public Service Loan Forgiveness waiver

GEN-21-09

Reconciliation

Electronic Announcement, 12/21/21 (DL-21-06)

Expected Family Contribution

Age of parent/Parents' Education Savings and Asset Protection Allowance

2022-23 FSA Handbook, Vol. AVG, Ch. 3, November 2021

Excluded assets

2022-23 FSA Handbook, Vol. AVG, Ch. 2, November 2021

Misrepresentation

Publications, Articles, & Other Resources

Misrepresentation Memorandum (Postsecondary National Policy Institute)

Professional Judgment

ED References

2022-23 FSA Handbook, Vol. AVG, November 2021

Program Eligibility

Publications, Articles, & Other Resources

State Authorization Memorandum (Postsecondary National Policy Institute)

Program Participation Agreement

Publications, Articles, & Other Resources

Incentive Compensation Memorandum (Postsecondary National Policy Institute)

Verification

Number of family members in household (household size)

2022-23 FSA Handbook, Vol. AVG, Ch. 4, November 2021

Professional Judgment

2022-23 FSA Handbook, Vol. AVG, Ch. 5, November 2021

 

New Functionality

We are excited to announce two new Ref Desk features! Newly added resources will now be easy to identify at a glance. The word "New" will appear in blue next to recently added resources for the first 60 days they are in the Ref Desk. We’ve also added "source" to the search functionality, so you’ll now be able to see not just where in the Ref Desk a search result is catalogued, but also where the resource came from. Looking for a specific article on loan forgiveness that was located in the Journal of Student Financial Aid? Now, you can easily identify it, and also use it to filter the results of your search.

 

Become a Ref Desk Partner

The Ref Desk is always looking for new partners. Being a partner with the Ref Desk can be as simple as lending your name to our list of supporters. If you are, or know, a group or individual interested in becoming a Ref Desk partner, please reach out to NASFAA's Research Department for more details on how to join our growing group of supporters. There are many different ways to get involved and help us champion the Ref Desk!

 

Road Map

Work continues on the new Ref Desk term: Financial Literacy. We are expecting it to launch in early 2022.

Have suggestions to help us improve the Ref Desk? Email us or complete this short form to tell us more about your user experience.

 

December 2021

What's New

In early December, negotiators met for the Department of Education's (ED) final negotiated rulemaking sessions of the year, which focused on affordability and student loans. Their final day, negotiators reached consensus on four of 12 topics: total and permanent disability discharge, eliminating interest capitalization for nonstatutory capitalization events, false certification discharge, and Pell Grant eligibility for Prison Education Programs. Check out the Congressional Research Service's "Prisoners’ Eligibility for Pell Grants: Issues for Congress" report, which is linked in the Ref Desk under the Pell Grant Publications, Articles & Other Resources section, to read up on Pell eligibility issues for prisoners.

Borrower defense to repayment was one of many topics up for discussion with ED proposing several changes to the borrower defense regulations over the course of the rulemaking session, including allowing group claims and setting processing and adjudication deadlines. There was broad support from negotiators regarding ED's proposed addition of a definition of aggressive and deceptive recruitment tactics. Ultimately, however, the group did not reach consensus on borrower defense to repayment.

Also in December, we saw the introduction of a bill that would help community college students transfer credits to complete associate degrees, and the end of the road for a tuition-free community college proposal which, despite what appeared to be broad support among Democratic lawmakers in Congress, failed to get across the finish line and was ultimately cut from the Democrats’ social spending package. The Ref Desk has dozens of resources related to community colleges. For two helpful resources from the American Association of Community Colleges related to enrollment trends, head to the Publications, Articles & Other Resources section of the Enrollment Status term.

Read on for a look at what’s new this month in the Ref Desk.

 

Trending Topics

Terms that are getting the most clicks and search traffic right now include: 

  1. Direct Loans
  2. Verification
  3. Return of Title IV Funds (R2T4)
  4. Expected Family Contribution (EFC)
  5. Student Eligibility
  6. Institutional Eligibility
  7. Program Participation Agreement (PPA)
  8. Pell Grant

Perkins Loan Program, which made an appearance on the list of trending topics last month fell off the list in December and was replaced with Pell Grant, while Direct Loans continues to hold steady as the most viewed term in the Ref Desk. 

Pell Grant likely saw a surge in interest because lawmakers are continuing to parse through the ways in which they can bolster the annual Pell Grant. In November, NASFAA published a new report examining how increased funding for the program benefits middle-income families, in addition to its long-standing support of low-income students. Increasing aid to the program does not need to be mutually exclusive to either group of students, NASFAA’s report explains. The report also presents two ways to expand Pell Grant eligibility further into the middle class, while simultaneously increasing Pell Grants to low-income families. The report, “How Middle-Income Families Benefit When the Maximum Pell Award Is Increased,” can be found under the ​​Publications, Articles & Other Resources section of the Pell Grant term.

 

New Resources

In the past month, we have added 26 new resources, including new chapters from the Federal Student Aid Handbook, electronic announcements from the Department of Education, and articles and reports from a variety of sources. Below are some topical areas to check out and newly added resources for each.

Academic Year

Direct assessment program

2021-22 FSA Handbook, Vol. 2, Ch. 2, November 2021

Administrative Capability

ED References

2021-22 FSA Handbook, Vol. 2, November 2021

Withdrawal rate (newly participating schools)

2021-22 FSA Handbook, Vol. 2, Ch. 1, November 2021

Adequate number of qualified Title IV aid administrators

2021-22 FSA Handbook, Vol. 2, Ch. 3, November 2021

Fiscal reports and financial statements

2021-22 FSA Handbook, Vol. 2, Ch. 4, November 2021

Record retention

2021-22 FSA Handbook, Vol. 2, Ch. 7, November 2021

Audit and Program Review

Program reviews

2021-22 FSA Handbook, Vol. 2, Ch. 8

Consumer Information

Publications, Articles, & Other Resources

Factors Associated with Parent and Student Debt of Bachelor’s Degree Recipients (Journal of Student Financial Aid)

Financial Knowledge or Financial Situations? Toward Understanding Why Some College Students Use Credit Cards to Pay for College Tuition (Journal of Student Financial Aid)

Hidden Inequality: Financial Aid Information Available to College Students with Disabilities Attending Public Four-Year Institutions (Journal of Student Financial Aid)

The Role of Student Debt and Debt Anxiety in College Student Financial Well-Being (Journal of Student Financial Aid)

Cost of Attendance

Publications, Articles, & Other Resources

Trends in College Pricing and Student Aid 2021 (The College Board)

Direct Loans

Enrollment reporting

NSLDS Enrollment Reporting Guide (September 2021)

Publications, Articles, & Other Resources

The North Carolina Teaching Fellows Program: A Case Study of the Use of Forgivable Loans in Recruiting Future STEM Teachers (Journal of Student Financial Aid)

Unforced Errors: How One Simple Fix Could Improve Student Loan Repayment (Third Way)

Who do College Students Turn to for Financial Aid and Student Loan Advice, and is it Advice Worth Following?(Journal of Student Financial Aid)

Institutional Eligibility

Recertification

2021-22 FSA Handbook, Vol. 2, Ch. 5, November 2021

Need Analysis

FAFSA Mobile App

Electronic Announcement, 10/01/21 (APP-21-20)

Packaging

College Financing Plan

The College Financing Plan Forms

College Financing Plan FAQ

Electronic Announcement, 10/28/21

Pell Grant

Publications, Articles, & Other Resources

How Middle-Income Families Benefit When the Maximum Pell Award Is Increased (National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators)

Perkins Loan Program

Distribution of assets

Electronic Announcement, 10/22/21 (CB-21-13)

Level of expenditure (LOE) and excess cash on hand

Electronic Announcement, 11/5/21 (CB-21-15)

Federal Register, 1/26/21

Verification

Communication with applicant about required documentation, deadlines, and consequences of failure to comply

2021-22 FSA Handbook, Vol. 2, Ch. 6, November 2021

 

Featured Functionality

We are always looking to make the Ref Desk more robust. Do you think there is a piece of research that we should include? Anyone may submit resources for inclusion in the Ref Desk using this form. Research and reports should be nonpartisan and NASFAA staff will review all submitted items before inclusion.

 

Become a Ref Desk Partner

The Ref Desk is always looking for new partners. Being a partner with the Ref Desk can be as simple as lending your name to our list of supporters. If you are, or know, a group or individual interested in becoming a Ref Desk partner, please reach out to NASFAA's Research Department for more details on how to join our growing group of supporters. There are many different ways to get involved and help us champion the Ref Desk!

 

Road Map

Work continues on the new Ref Desk term: Financial Literacy. We are expecting it to launch in early 2022.

Have suggestions to help us improve the Ref Desk? Email us or complete this short form to tell us more about your user experience.

 

November 2021

What's New

The Department of Education's (ED) negotiated rulemaking committee reconvened this month to discuss a host of issues related to college affordability and student loans. Among the topics covered were closed school discharges, interest capitalization, the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program, and borrower defense to repayment — many of the same topics highlighted in a letter seven Democratic senators sent November 1 to Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. The letter called on ED to streamline income-driven repayment (IDR) into a single plan that expands relief for borrowers, speed the processing of borrower defense claims and expand protections for students, eliminate any restriction on closed school discharge related to whether a student transferred to another institution, and make recent improvements to the PSLF program permanent.

After four days of robust discussions, the committee spent its fifth and final day looking for clarity on IDR plans, with negotiators asking at the outset of the day's conversation how the new IDR plans fit with ED's existing IDR offerings for borrowers and whether the department intends to get rid of any plans. 

"We're trying to gauge what is needed, what is missing, so that we can reorganize this and streamline this with what we have currently," said ED negotiator Jennifer Hong. "We certainly can't get rid of any plans right now in the regulations, but we are exploring how we can better organize these plans."

This past week, the ED negotiated rulemaking subcommittee on prison education programs (PEP) convened to discuss and work on several definitions related to the program's administration and participant eligibility. ED will use those recommendations to shape its regulatory framework, which subcommittee members will present to the full committee next month.

Want more? NASFAA's negotiated rulemaking page has in-depth summaries of each day of the negotiated rulemaking sessions and the Student Aid Reference Desk is an excellent resource to utilize for definitions and greater background on many of the issues ED has been tackling, like closed school discharge, PSLF, and IDR.

 

Trending Topics

Terms that are getting the most clicks and search traffic right now include: 

  1. Direct Loans
  2. Return of Title IV Funds (R2T4)
  3. Verification
  4. Student Eligibility
  5. Program Participation Agreement (PPA)
  6. Perkins Loan Program
  7. Expected Family Contribution
  8. Institutional Eligibility

November saw four terms that weren't on last month's list of most viewed terms rise to the top, including Student Eligibility, Perkins Loan Program, Expected Family Contribution (EFC), and Institutional Eligibility. Direct Loans continues to hold its top spot as the most viewed term in the Ref Desk, and R2T4, ​​Program Participation Agreement (PPA), and Verification all made a reappearance. 

Speaking of verification, if you haven't yet read it, there's a new report out from NASFAA and the National College Attainment Network (NCAN) you might want to take a spin through. Our organizations joined together to survey financial aid administrators and college access and success advisers on the impact of verification on their students and their work within the landscape of verification relief and scrutiny. The resulting paper, "The Burden of Proof: Impact of and Solutions for FAFSA Verification," offers recommendations to decrease the burden verification places on students and financial aid administrators alike.

 

New Resources

In the past month, we have added 10 new resources, including new chapters from the Federal Student Aid Handbook, Dear Colleague letters, and reports. Below are some topical areas to check out.

Perkins Loan

2021-22 FSA Handbook, Vol. 6, Ch. 3, September 2021

2021-22 FSA Handbook, Vol. 6, Ch. 4, September 2021

Verification

2022-23 FAFSA

2022-23 FAFSA (Spanish)

2022-23 Tax Transcript Decoder

The Burden of Proof: Impact of and Solutions for FAFSA Verification (National College Attainment Network & National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators)

Return of Title IV - Natural disaster, national emergency, or military mobilization

Electronic Announcement, 1/22/21 (COD-21-01) (Updated 9/30/21)

Professional Judgment - Unemployment Benefits

Electronic Announcement, 9/30/21 (APP-21-18)

Need Analysis - IRS Data Retrieval Tool

Electronic Announcement, 9/30/21 (APP-21-19)

Expected Family Contribution - Publications, Articles & Other Resources

Report: The Real Price of College: Estimating and Supporting Students' Financial Needs (The Hope Center)

Anyone may submit resources for inclusion in the Ref Desk using this form. Research and reports should be nonpartisan, and NASFAA staff will review all submitted items before inclusion. 

 

Featured Functionality

Did you know you can bookmark a frequently referenced Ref Desk topic or subtopic? For example, if you want to reference the latest ED guidance on Professional Judgment quickly, simply navigate to that specific section of the Ref Desk and bookmark it in your preferred web browser. That way next time you can jump straight to it rather than taking the extra time to navigate there manually from the Ref Desk homepage or PJ landing page.

 

Become a Ref Desk Partner

The Ref Desk is always looking for new partners. Being a partner with the Ref Desk can be as simple as lending your name to our list of supporters. If you are, or know, a group or individual interested in becoming a Ref Desk partner, please reach out to NASFAA's Research Department for more details on how to join our growing group of supporters. There are many different ways to get involved and help us champion the Ref Desk!

 

Road Map

Work has begun on developing the new Ref Desk term, Financial Literacy. We are now expecting it to launch after the holidays.

Have suggestions to help us improve the Ref Desk? Email us or complete this short form to tell us more about your user experience.