U.S. financial aid advisory committee to be eliminated

Congress’ decision to remove its financial aid advisory panel will harm TCU’s financial aid programs, a financial aid director said.

Deep in the fine print of a bill regarding the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act is a new rule that will eliminate the 20-year-old Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance in three years.

If the committee is abolished, TCU financial aid students will see major changes in the university’s programs within 12 to 18 months after its removal, said Melet Leafgreen, assistant director of financial aid.

Although the committee counsels Congress and the U.S. Department of Education on financial aid matters, it also serves as a counsel for financial aid officers and administrators at TCU and other universities around the country, Leafgreen said.

The ACSFA presents solutions on financial aid issues to Congress, and in turn relays that information and new laws to financial aid officers and administrators at various universities, Leafgreen said.

This process helps universities communicate important programs and information to students and families, Leafgreen said.

Student aid will become more difficult to receive, and students will be neglected because lawmakers do not understand how difficult it is to manage financial aid, Leafgreen said.

“The committee is necessary for our programs to continue to be successful,” Leafgreen said.

Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., added the provision to remove the ACSFA. The House of Representatives passed the bill in February.

“Chairman Miller believes that this committee has outlived its usefulness, and that the taxpayer dollars used to fund this committee could be put to better use,” wrote Rachel Racusen, spokeswoman for Miller, in an e-mail statement.

Since its inception in 1988, the committee has helped simplify financial aid forms and has created aid applications such as the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, according to the ACSFA Web site.

Financial aid programs would not exist without the FAFSA application, Leafgreen said.

“The committee makes our jobs as aid administrators and the FAFSA application process much easier,” Leafgreen said.

Without the experts that analyze financial aid reports, conduct surveys and find innovative ways to improve the financial aid system, financial aid would not be as fine-tuned as it is today, Leafgreen said.

She said financial aid administrators and officers across the country are opposed to the removal of the committee and are making efforts to negotiate with lawmakers.

According to the ACSFA Web site, the committee is composed of 11 members including students, bankers, college presidents and financial aid officers. The Senate, the House and the secretary of education appoint the committee’s representatives.