TASFAA Members Meet with Congressman Doggett

Each February after attending the NASFAA Leadership & Legislative Conference in Washington, D.C., many participants will take time to visit Capitol Hill and meet with their elected representatives. This year was no exception. One group of financial aid administrators, led by Shannon Crossland (SWASFAA past president) and Christopher Murr (TASFAA past president), visited both Senate and House offices. At one of their stops, they visited with U.S. Congressman Lloyd Doggett of the Texas 35th District.

SWASFAA and TASFAA members pose for a photo during their meeting with Congressman Lloyd Doggett. From left to right: Denise Welch (SWASFAA past president 2017), Shannon Crossland (SWASFAA past president), Rachael Fournier (University of Texas – Arlington), U.S. Congressman Lloyd Doggett, Dr. Christophe Murr (TASFAA past president), and Traci Armes (University of Texas – Austin).

During the group’s visit with Congressman Doggett, as well as with Sarah Laven (the Congressman’s Legislative Assistant), a number of financial aid topics related to higher education were discussed. The conversation addressed such Congressional proposals as the FAFSA Act and the expected positive effect for aid applicants derived from more robust data sharing between the IRS and U.S. Department of Education. Some of the other topics included the elimination of Direct Loan origination fees and level funding for campus-based programs and their benefits for postsecondary students; especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds.

The Capitol Hill meetings were a great way for financial aid administrators to help inform the discussions on financial aid programs and proposals that so assist students in the pursuit of a higher education. As Shannon Crossland stated, “it was a wonderful opportunity to share our perspective and the experiences of our students with those making decisions on the future of federal financial aid in higher education.”

Trellis Financial Wellness Survey

Hi TASFAA Members,

In Spring 2018, Texas A&M University took part in Trellis Company’s national Student Financial Wellness Survey. Through this survey we were able to gain critical knowledge about our students’ financial security and basic needs security, as well as their perceptions of paying for college, student debt, and institutional support. Working with Trellis was easy and, best of all, free!

To get things started, we provided Trellis with a minimum amount of information for approximately 5,000 of our Undergraduates. Trellis then emailed their survey to our students, collected and analyzed their responses, and ultimately shared the survey’s findings with our University through personalized reports, infographics, and even an in-person presentation. Needless to say, our experience working with Trellis was fantastic, and we fully intend on participating again this upcoming fall.

“Before we can improve the financial wellness of our students, we first need to know what it is. Thanks to this survey, we now have a better understanding of our students’ financial challenges and concerns, and therefore can coordinate a more effective campus-wide effort to address their financial needs.”

– Nick Kilmer, Assistant Director of the Money Education Center at Texas A&M University

Having shared our survey data with other departments, we are now excited to see their sincere interest in working together to impact the financial wellness of our Aggies. I am certain that the other Texas Universities that have already joined this survey are experiencing similar success as well, and I hope that your school will considering participating in the future. To learn more, visit Trellis Company’s Student Financial Wellness website.

Texas A&M University

Delisa Falks-AVP Scholarships & Financial Aid

Nick Kilmer-Assistant Director, Money Education Center

Conference Attendees’ Input Requested

During the THECB State Update session on Friday, October 5, our speaker, Charles Puls, would like to engage an open dialog with the community on the following issues – Please prepare your thoughts and comments and bring them with you to the 9:30 session!


  • What is the impact of encouraging HRI’s, technical institutes, community colleges and independent institutions to utilize the priority deadline?


  • What are the impacts of offering a program like this?


  • What are the challenges to awarding TEXAS grant to transfer students?


  • Does the EFC cutoff for exceptional need require further review?


  • What would be the impact of allowing Pell as a matching fund?

President Discusses TASFAA’s Accomplishments Over the Past Year at Fall Conference

 by Dr. Christopher Murr, TASFAA President 2017-2018

At last year’s conference, I thanked you for entrusting me with the honor of becoming TASFAA president and promised to do my upmost on behalf of our Association. As with each TASFAA President and their Board of Directors, we undertook serious and deliberate work to accomplish the goals set forth at this time last year. I believe it’s important now to take a few minutes to update you on the progress made toward these objectives. These accomplishments are the result not only of the work of the Board, but of committee chairs, committee members, task force chairs and many others within TASFAA who have given of their time and talents.

Just some of these accomplishments include:

1. Implementation of Strategic Plan 

The first goal was to develop and implement a member-driven, multi-year strategic plan. I am happy to report that such a plan was adopted earlier this year and is comprised of three strategic goals:

  • Lead and facilitate the development of informed policies related to effective student financial aid programs and the improvement of student access and success at institutions of higher education.
  • Develop the professional skills and expertise of student financial aid professionals in the State of Texas.
  • Ensure that finances are managed for the long-term fiscal health of the Association while also using funds to develop initiatives that better meet the needs of the Association’s members.

Also, as part of the strategic plan, Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for each strategic goal were put into place. These KPIs are being used to measure progress toward each strategic goal and are already being reported on to the Board on a quarterly basis.

2. Better Informing Public Policy

Another goal was to enhance TASFAA’s role in informing public policy on effective financial aid programs, and our short-term goal this year in meeting this strategy was for our Association to be asked to testify before either the Texas House or Senate Committee on Higher Education. Doing so is critical to helping establish TASFAA as a trusted resource for informing such public policy. I am proud to report this goal was also accomplished in August during testimony on Senate Bill 887 before the Senate Committee on Higher Education. The written portion of that testimony is available on our TASFAA website. In addition, TASFAA is working with staffers on potential bill language related to several initiatives on improving financial aid programs and better assisting students.

3. Providing NASFAA Credential Training

Based on surveys of TASFAA members, we heard loud and clear from you (our members) that having the opportunity to participate in NASFAA Credential Training at TASFAA events was extremely important. Thanks to the Board, and in particular Ms. Christy Miller, Chair of our Credential Training Task Force, we have for the first time begun offering this credential training to our TASFAA members. This training was offered for the first time this week as a pre-conference session, and Christy and her task force are working on a long-term plan to incorporate such training in other venues.

4. Recognition of Financial Aid Administrators

So many in our Association do so much for our profession and often go unrecognized. That’s why another goal was to enhance our recognition of members for their dedication within the profession. Therefore, the TASFAA Board acted on the recommendations of the Awards and Scholarships Committee, chaired by Ms. Dede Gonzales, to create two new awards for TASFAA members. These awards, which were given out for the first-time last night, are the:

  • Teaching and Mentoring Award, which recognizes someone who has demonstrated a commitment to teaching and mentoring other financial aid professionals over a sustained period of time.
  • Financial Aid Support Award, which recognizes outstanding efforts by an individual in a back-office support role (not front line).

Courtney Todd (center) receives the inaugural Financial Aid Support Award


5. Needed Changes to our Policy and Procedures

Another goal was for the Board to undertake needed changes to the Association’s policy and procedures. Some of the changes that were made include:

  • Adopting enhanced investment policy language that is in better alignment with the fiscal goals set forth in our new strategic plan. This hard work, which involved significant research, was performed by the Investment Policy Task Force, chaired by Ms. Delisa Falks.
  • Adopting an Appropriate Behavior and Conduct Statement that is aligned with similar language adopted by our national association and that is designed to help ensure a safe environment for our members at TASFAA functions.

These are just a few examples of the work accomplished over the past year by the TASFAA Board, committee chairs, task force chairs and many others within our Association. Though just a sample, they are illustrative of the varying types of work being performed over the past year on your behalf.

 6. ATLE- TASFAA Education Scholarship

There is one more accomplishment that I would like to bring to your attention. From a TASFAA perspective, I would like to thank Ms. Dede Gonzales, Chair of the Awards and Scholarships Committee, and TASFAA Board Member Mr. David Orsag. I want to thank them for their work on helping establish the criteria and process for a new scholarship. This new scholarship has been made possible by the generosity of the Association of Texas Leaders for Education (ATLE). The scholarship will be awarded for the first-time next year, for fall of 2019, to a TASFAA member. It is intended to help with the educational costs incurred by TASFAA members who are pursuing a higher education. This new scholarship program is called the ATLE-TASFAA Education Scholarship. The application will become available this February. So, stay tuned for more details.

I want to take this opportunity to thank the ATLE Board for their generosity in making this scholarship available to our members.