The only constant is change; and that changes constantly…

Heraclitus had it right. Change happens all of the time; our whole life is filled with change. Just the basic act of getting up in the morning causes a whole variety of changes in your life; every decision I make, every choice I choose, each brings about a variety of different options and closes a number of different pathways to me. Each decision (and even the decision not to decide) causes variety in my day.

Hey brother, can you spare some change?

If you like variety, you may want to work as a Financial Aid officer. We know change in our profession because it is an essential part of the work we do. When you work with partners as diverse as the Federal Government, State Government, College Foundations, Private Donors, and other sources for funds, there is a chance that every day will bring about a change in rules or regulations that govern how we award and disburse funds to students. This last week has been no exception.

I spent the last week in Reno, NV, at the Federal Student Aid Training Conference. This annual gathering of more than 5000 financial aid officers and partners from every state in the country (and several international attendees as well) is a massive gathering of those of us who work in the industry. This year’s conference (over 4 1/2 days) had more than 5 General Sessions (imagine 5000 people in one massive ballroom, and you get the idea), 32 concurrent sessions (several offered more than once to give attendees the chance to see them), 3 hands-on sessions, and 10 “Birds of a Feather” sessions for those from similar backgrounds to share news. All of the sessions are audio recorded so that several weeks after the conference is over, attendees and non-attendees can go back and hear what was said.

If you get the idea that this conference is a big deal, it is. Just follow the Twitter hashtag #fsatc2019 and you can read a number of updates from those attending with their comments about the content of the sessions.

While there were lots of interesting items shared, there were TWO BIG CHANGES which will impact each one of you, so I thought I would share those here. Sorry it took me a few days to get this update to you, but needless to say between the full conference days, the 3 hour time difference, and the high altitude (at over 4500 feet above sea level), my body needed its rest.

  1. Starting next year (2020-21), every student loan borrower will have to go through a new process. Before receiving any loan disbursement for the year, the student (or parent for PLUS loans) will need to log into the Federal government’s web site, take a look at their current balance for loans (including potential monthly repayment amount, current loan balance, and remaining eligibility) and confirm that they understand this amount and obligation before taking out additional loans.
  2. While we are on the subject of web pages, the government’s student financial and and student loan web pages are going through a major overhaul. This nextgen process will bring about a streamlined experience for consumers (students, schools, and loan servicers).

The video below explains both of these changes (and was shared at the conference). Also included is the newly announced chatbot (or virtual assistant) named “Aidan” (see 3:30 in the video).

The Digital Future of Federal Student Aid

Some other changes announced were much more technical, but these were the most important for you (and will have the most impact on you). What are your thoughts about logging in to confirm your loan balance before you receive your next loan for the year? While I agree it is good practice, I have lots of questions about how this will work for students. Stay tuned to the blog and I will share more news as it comes.

As you can guess, there are always more changes coming down the line!