The National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators created a 50-member national committee—which includes college presidents, admissions staff, and financial aid leaders—to spend the year solving some of higher education’s most pressing problems.
To address some of the problems facing higher education in America, the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA) has convened a forward-thinking group of 50 experts, which it’s calling Forward50. The national committee will spend 2018 tackling issues ranging from the accessibility of a postsecondary education to its affordability.
“We wanted to get folks from all levels of campus, from the very top—college presidents, chancellors, boards of trustee members—and from every office below to come together and really think about solutions to some of the issues that have been talked about in higher education for many years,” said NASFAA President Justin Draeger.
The federal government extends about $150 million in federal financial aid each year. That’s up by 50 percent from just about a decade ago, according to the NASFAA, leaving the fed with an estimated $1.4 trillion in outstanding student loan debt.
“While public confidence in higher education is still very high when compared to other industries, including politicians, public confidence in higher education has waned in recent years under perceptions about college cost, student debt, and future earnings,” Draeger said.
To make a start at fixing these problems, Forward50 will produce four whitepapers with topics including access to a postsecondary degree; transparency in how much higher ed costs and how people pay for it; and accountability to taxpayers. On the latter point, Draeger explains that taxpayers invest so much in higher education that they “also deserve some accountability that students are taking on responsible levels of debts,” as well as graduating and getting good earnings.
“There will certainly be public policy aspects of these papers that we would hope lawmakers would consider, and we have action plans after this work finishes to turn this into an advocacy campaign,” Draeger said. “The second piece will be some of our own industry change. What are things that we in higher education also need to do to tackle these issues of access, affordability, transparency, and accountability.”
In that way, Draeger said NASFAA sees Forward50 as phase one, in which the association brings people together, creates these whitepapers, gets reaction from lawmakers and policymakers, and debates those ideas. “But the goal here is to see this turn into action,” Draeger said. “This is not a thought experiment.”