TASFAA Community Blog!

  • 11 Jan 2012 9:00 PM | Anonymous

    Tips for getting students thinking about repayment while they’re still in school

    Doug Savage, TG Senior Regional Account Executive


    With student debt balances higher than usual and a job market that remains challenging, worsening cohort default rates are a worry on many campuses.


    Raul Lerma, interim executive director of financial aid and veterans affairs at El Paso Community College, says that his school’s numbers have been bucking the trend. Here are some tips he offers based on his experience. These three methods all involve ways schools can engage current students now to actively prevent default later.


    Start repayment now


    “The basic challenge,” he says, “is to help the students understand that they really do have to pay this money back. Sometimes it doesn’t seem real to them that they actually will need to make payments at some point.


    “Therefore, it’s a good idea to get them making payments while they’re still in school. That might just be $50, but it’s still a good idea, because it creates two benefits. First, it chips away at the amount a little, and that’s obviously good, but the second benefit is more important: that tiny payment creates the habit and makes repayment real for them.”

    Use in-person entrance counseling

    Another strategy Lerma uses to manage default rates is to require in-person entrance counseling every academic year. “A lot of schools do this counseling online,” he says, “or it’s in-person the first year and online after that. But I think in-person counseling makes more of an impact, so we require it every academic year.”

    Besides the impact of being in a session with an actual instructor, Lerma notes that there is also the benefit of teachable moments as students can ask questions, with an expert to answer at that moment.

    Reinforce with brochures or even intermediate sessions

    Lerma says that his office has also been employing a tactic of reinforcing loan repayment concepts often. “Whenever a student comes in our office for any reason,” he says, “we ask if they have loans. If they do, we give them an informative booklet.” The idea is that it might take several attempts to gain the student’s deep attention and have them engage the subject matter. Reinforcing the material with the brochure boosts the likelihood that students will read and understand the important information they need to grasp.

    He adds, “We’re also considering the idea of getting students in for intermediate counseling sessions to reinforce what they may have forgotten from entrance counseling.”

    In short, getting students to start repaying their loans while still in school (even if it’s only $50 per month), using in-person rather than online entrance counseling, and reinforcing the importance of repayment at every opportunity, may be effective ways to keep cohort default rates under control. The results at El Paso Community College seem to confirm that they are.

    Doug Savage is a Senior Regional Account Executive with TG serving schools in TASFAA. You can reach Doug at (800) 252-9743, ext. 6711, or by email at doug.savage@tgslc.org. Additional information about TG can be found online at www.TG.org.

  • 09 Nov 2011 10:11 AM | Anonymous
    Good Glorious Morning TASFAA Colleagues,

    I am in Jackson, TN with approximately 60 of our colleagues for the first of the three training events in our Fall series. Brent Tener (Vanderbilt) and Michelle Baird (Lincoln Memorial) are leading the discussion on SAP.

    Looking forward to hearing from our friends at TSAC and the Department of Ed later today! If you haven't had a chance to register, we will be in Nashville on Monday the 14th and Knoxville on Tuesday the 15th.

    See some of you at the workshops and some of you at FSA in Las Vegas - Lester and Tricia are going to the real Vegas - not just CookeVegas - which we affectionately call our home of Cookeville!

    Drop me an email if you are going so we can make plans for a TN lunch/dinner while there!

    Have an awesome day!!!

    TASFAA President
  • 08 Nov 2011 6:12 PM | Deleted user

    Congratulations are in order for all our following colleagues!

    Trevecca Nazareene University is happy to announce that Kylie Pruitt has rejoined the Financial Aid staff as Associate Director of Financial Aid (she was previously Director of FA at Aquinas). Angie Register, Financial Aid Counselor is expecting a new baby in January.

    Columbia StateBrenda Burney became the new FA Director at the end of April (formerly at Art Institue of TN).  Bill McCord (who formerly was at Nashville State then Morehead State) is back in TN as the Technical Coordinator at Columbia State.  Tammy Noragon is now Scholarship Coordinator (previously with Witchita State University).  Rakida Sims is the FA Coordinator for the Columbia State Williamson County Campus (previously with Art Institute of TN).

    South College: Kim Cintron became Mrs. Jeff Long on a beautiful October day (October 21, 2011). 

    Rhodes College: Kim Prestridge (Assoc. Director of FA) will be giving birth to a son (Zachary) scheduled Friday Nov. 11th via C-section, and will return to work in January. 

    MTSU: MTSU's scholarship staff moved to a separate office in April.  The new Scholarship Office is located in James Union Building, room 206.  The Financial Aid Office has two new employees:  Trina Wilson joined MTSU in May and is the Assistant Director responsible for the loan programs.  Joanie Walker joined MTSU full-time in September as a Coordinator after serving as the lead person in the school's Call Center this past summer.  Leann Eaton has moved up to Associate Director of Operations.


  • 02 Nov 2011 11:28 AM | Deleted user
    The annual FSA conference is upcoming Nov. 29 - Dec. 2, 2011 in LAS VEGAS!  See www.fsaconferences.ed.gov for more information.
  • 02 Nov 2011 11:24 AM | Deleted user
    It's not too late to register for one of the TASFAA/TSAC Fall Training Workshops to be held Nov. 9th (Jackson-Union University), Nov. 14th (Nashville-Lipscomb University) and Nov. 15th (Knoxville-South College). See the Fall Training tab (left) for details and registration info.
  • 25 Oct 2011 2:05 PM | Deleted user


    We are at a turning point on federal student aid funding and I am writing to ask you to sign on to a simple statement of support that calls on our lawmakers to Save Student Aid.

    Because of our nation's historic economic downturn, we've already seen $30 billion cut from our federal student aid programs. The Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, also known as the Super Committee, has until Nov. 23 to come up with a plan to reduce the nation's debt. Federal student aid could very well be on the chopping block and students need your voice to defend the programs that grant access to postsecondary education.

    As you know, this is an incredibly challenging time for students all over the country, including those you serve on a daily basis. The recession has driven more students back to campus to improve their skills and job prospects, and a lot of those students have higher economic needs. Meanwhile, federal and state governments have cut back their support. It is critical to preserve what financial aid is still available for deserving students so they can better qualify for the jobs that will help our economy grow.

    As student aid administrators you see evidence of these situations everyday on your college campus. But Super Committee members and other members of Congress need to hear more-and they need to hear it from as many people as possible, particularly those of you who work directly with students.

    That's why the Student Aid Alliance, a coalition of national higher education organizations representing thousands of campuses and millions of presidents, students, faculty and administrators has organized a campaign to Save Student Aid. The campaign will reach to out to all campus constituencies, encouraging grassroots involvement. As one of the founding members of the Alliance, NASFAA encourages you to join us in this campaign.

    As the Super Committee's deadline nears, we need your help. Please sign our statement of support, expressing the opinion that for our country's short- and long-term economic health, student aid funding must be preserved. This is a simple and easy step to make your voice heard.

    If you're interested in getting more involved after you've signed on, you'll see other options for actions you can take by visiting NASFAA's Save Student Aid Facebook campaign.

    Your voice is powerful and students need it now more than ever. Please join your fellow administrators as well as the students from across the country in asking the Super Committee and our lawmakers to Save Student Aid.

    Statement of Support link:


  • 24 Oct 2011 9:53 AM | Deleted user

    Publication Date: October 20, 2011

    DCL ID:  GEN-11-17 

    Subject: Fraud in Postsecondary Distance Education Programs - URGENT CALL TO ACTION

    Summary: The purpose of this letter is to provide guidance to address potential fraud in the Federal student aid programs at institutions of higher education that offer distance education programs. This letter provides an overview of the fraud schemes that the Department's Inspector General (IG) detected, and recommends immediate steps that institutions can take to detect and prevent fraud. In this letter, we also describe further actions that institutions can take and that the Federal government is committed to taking, including increasing technical assistance to institutions of higher education, the convening of a Department-wide task force on distance education fraud, and plans for recommending legislative and regulatory changes to address the relevant issues.

    Dear Colleague:

    We appreciate the efforts that institutions routinely take to protect the integrity of the Federal student aid programs.  Some of the fraud described in this letter was detected as a direct result of vigilant efforts pursued by institutions that have implemented comprehensive internal controls and fraud detection measures.  Despite these efforts, more needs to be done by all institutions to prevent, identify, and report suspected distance education fraud in the Federal student aid programs and enable the successful prosecution of offenders.  As evidenced by our recent work with the community on program integrity, we are committed to being a strong steward of the taxpayer investment in the student assistance programs and to ensuring their integrity.  For these reasons, the Department determined a swift response was necessary and, through this Dear Colleague Letter (DCL), we are asking for your continued partnership to eliminate this and other attempts to defraud the Federal st  udent aid programs.  It is imperative that institutions comply with all existing statutory and regulatory requirements to disburse aid only to eligible students, to identify and resolve discrepancies in student information, to ensure that all requirements regarding "regular student" status are met, and to report any suspected fraud to the Department's IG.  In doing so, your efforts will help curb these abuses and ensure that Federal student aid is provided to needy students as intended.

    On September 26, 2011, the Department's IG issued a report about fraud rings operating on distance education programs offered by institutions participating in the Federal student aid programs (http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/oig/invtreports/l42l0001.pdf).  The IG's report identified an increasing number of cases involving large, loosely affiliated groups of individuals (fraud rings) who conspire to defraud title IV programs through distance education programs.  These fraud rings generally target institutions with low tuition in the context of distance education programs and involve a ringleader who:

    Obtains identifying information from straw students - individuals who willingly provide the information - including some who were incarcerated, by promising financial gain.

    Completes multiple financial aid applications using the information collected (name, Social Security number, date of birth, etc.).

    Applies for admission under the institution's open admissions program, where little or no third-party documentation is required.

    Participates in the amount of on-line interaction necessary to establish participation in the academic program and secure disbursements under an institution's procedures.

    Once the ringleader has submitted the Federal student financial aid application and completed enrollment at the institution, the institution draws down Federal student aid funds, deducts the institutional charges assessed the straw student, and disburses the credit balances to the straw student by check or debit card.  Straw students then give a portion of the proceeds to the ringleaders while keeping the remaining portion.  If needed to secure disbursements under an institution's procedures, a ringleader may also participate as the straw student in sufficient academic work to appear to be an eligible student.

    The IG's report found that complaints about distance education fraud rings are expected to continue, given that distance education is the fastest growing segment of higher education.  Institutions offer the front line of protection and are essential to the Department's efforts to thwart fraud and protect taxpayer dollars.  As you know, accrediting agencies are required to review the policies and procedures institutions have in place to verify the identity of the students enrolled in those courses and programs (34 CFR 602.17(g)).  Affected institutions should follow these reviewed processes to help detect efforts to defraud the Federal student aid programs.  We also expect institutions to take steps necessary to ensure that students are academically engaged prior to disbursing Title IV student aid funds.  If students do not begin attendance, Title IV funds must be returned  (34 CFR 668.21(a)).  We strongly encourage institutions that suspect potential fraud to question an appl

     icant's intent to seriously pursue the academic program by requiring the student to demonstrate that he or she has an academic purpose in order to establish eligibility for Federal student aid.  If a student does not demonstrate academic purpose or resolve other concerns regarding identity or eligibility, the institution should not disburse Title IV funds.   

    Detecting fraud before funds have been disbursed is the best way to combat this crime.  We therefore seek the help of institutions and advise that you take the following additional actions to identify and prevent the kind of student aid fraud identified in the IG's report:

    Implement automated protocols that monitor information in your student information data system to identify instances where a number of students -

    Use the same Internet Protocol (IP) address to complete and submit an admissions application.

    Use the same IP address to participate in the on-line academic program.

    Use the same e-mail address to submit an admissions application.

    Use the same e-mail address to participate in the on-line academic program Appear to reside in a geographic location that is anomalous to the locations of most students in the program.

    Modify your disbursement rules for students participating exclusively in distance learning programs, which would immediately reduce the amount that fraud ring participants can receive.  Institutions have the authority to:

    Delay disbursement of Title IV funds until the student has participated in the distance education program for a longer and more substantiated period of time (e.g., until an exam has been given, completed, and graded or a paper has been submitted).

    Make more frequent disbursements of Title IV funds so that not all of the payment period's award is disbursed at the beginning of the period.

    Our recent program integrity rules include two additional requirements that help identify potential fraud.  First, we now require institutions to have procedures in place to address what may appear to be a fraudulent claim of high school completion (34 CFR 668.16(p)).  Since we now collect high school completion information on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), institutions can use these procedures to help detect potential fraud.  In addition, in the future, we may in our annual verification notice (which we publish in the Federal Register pursuant to recently-revised verification regulations found in Subpart E of 34 C.F.R. Part 668) specify certain additional items that would need to be verified, including high school diploma information and applicant identity for all or some of an institution's Title IV applicants who are engaged in distance education.  The selection of these applicants for verification may be based on common addresses and other patterns  and discrepancies noted in the OIG's investigations.  Institutions are encouraged to verify identity of individuals whenever the institution, through use of similar methods and triggering events, finds cause for doing so as a best practice for preventing fraud. 

    The Department is taking this issue very seriously and has established a Department-wide anti-fraud ring task force, chaired by Jeff Baker, Director, Policy Liaison and Implementation in Federal Student Aid, to address the issues raised in the IG's report as well as emerging future threats.  If you have comments and suggestions that you believe will help us address fraud rings or have specific concerns that do not rise to a level that you believe appropriate to refer to the IG, please contact the task force at FraudTaskForce@ed.gov or call 202-377-4340.

    Finally, we have added sessions to the upcoming FSA Conference in Las Vegas scheduled for November 29-December 2, 2011, to more fully discuss the IG report and possible institutional responses.  We plan to release additional guidance after those sessions and will also consider suggestions for additional statutory and regulatory changes to help institutions combat fraud and protect students and taxpayers from fraudulent activity.



    James W. Runcie

    Chief Operating Officer

    Federal Student Aid

       Eduardo M. Ochoa

    Assistant Secretary

    for Postsecondary Education 

  • 19 Oct 2011 8:23 AM | Anonymous
    Today, October 19, 2011 is nationally recognized as Financial Aid Day. As President of this association it brings me great honor to wish each member, colleague and friend a Happy Financial Aid Day.

    Please take a moment to celebrate what we have accomplished over the last 40 years but more importantly the last 2 years and the changes to our profession. We have handled that transition with class and dignity, said goodbye to a number of friends and colleagues in the lending industry - and welcomed some of them back to our side of the fence!

    Enjoy this day and make sure to update your social media sites to reflect today's events - we're having a party here at Tech! Enjoy!!!
  • 12 Oct 2011 2:42 PM | Anonymous


    Hello friends and colleagues! TASFAA and TSAC are once again partnering together to provide training opportunities for financial aid administrators that will take place in three locations across the state. 


    Workshop West     Union University          Jackson, TN         November 9th  

    Workshop Central Lipscomb University        Nashville, TN      November 14th

    Workshop East    South College          Knoxville, TN             November 15th

  • 28 Sep 2011 9:13 AM | Anonymous
    Some Fall Training News - will share more in the next few weeks about when and where.

    We plan to hold three training workshops. These will be drive in one day sessions. The sessions will include a discussion on SAP using NASFAA training materials and and afternoon session with Wood Mason, DOE on loan reconciliation and DL Q & A.

    If you would like to assist by presenting or sitting on panel group - please send me your name and I will get you involved!


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