Funding, Grants & Awards

NASFAA Selects Winner of First Big Idea Policy Proposal Contest

The National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA) has selected the winner of its inaugural "Big Idea" policy proposal competition.

Mark Szymanoski, regulatory affairs manager for training and communications at Devry Education Group, won the competition with his "Student Aid Modernization Initiative" (SAMI), which aims to "improve the way federal financial aid is awarded, making the process simpler, more precise and more flexible," according to a news release. "By linking aid to each student's progress toward a degree, it would also make aid awards more equitable and reduce over-borrowing."

Szymanoski, whose plan was selected as the winner by an audience poll and a panel of judges, will work with NASFAA and researchers to further develop and refine his proposal.

"Besides being complex and inefficient, the current awarding method actually encourages excessive borrowing, enables overconsumption of grants, discourages accelerated study and is not equitable among students," Szymanoski said. "SAMI remedies this by awarding financial aid based on a student's actual progress toward program completion. The result is a financial aid package that is more precise, more equitable and much more efficient."

Anticipated benefits of SAMI include:

  • Improved efficiency in the use of federal funds as they would be tied to educational progress;
  • Year-round eligibility for Pell grants, rewarding students for accelerating their education;
  • A more equitable distribution of federal student aid;
  • Increased flexibility for students attending part-time, online, year-round and more;
  • Improvement of student management of grants and loans through increased understanding; and
  • Reduced administrative burden and improved precision owing to simplified student aid.

"NASFAA is excited about the potential positive impact SAMI could have on improving the student financial aid process for the future," said Megan McClean, managing director of policy & federal relations at NASFAA, in a prepared statement. "We applaud Mark Szymanoski for winning The Big Idea: NASFAA Policy Challenge and look forward to collaborating on the development phase of the initiative."

About the Author

Joshua Bolkan is contributing editor for Campus Technology, THE Journal and STEAM Universe. He can be reached at jbolkan@gmail.com.

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