From the President
As I write my final article "From the President", it seems hard to believe that almost a year has past since the gavel was passed to me. This time has gone by quickly and I've really enjoyed the opportunity to serve NeASFAA in this role. It has been a privilege to work with a great Board of Directors and dedicated committee chairs and committee members. I thank them, and all of you, for your support - it really has made a difference.
As NeASFAA President, I currently serve on the RMASFAA Board of Directors. This has been a great experience, especially since the 2004 RMASFAA Conference is in Omaha. Judi Walker and the Conference Planning Committee are working diligently to organize this event. This is our opportunity to showcase Omaha, and the state of Nebraska, so it would be wonderful to have strong attendance from NeASFAA members. The service organization we will be supporting at the Conference is Habitat for Humanity. This is exciting as it appears that we may even have the opportunity to participate in a build!
In other news from the RMASFAA winter board meeting, we learned that the format of the Summer Institute will change rather dramatically. Summer Institute will consist of five tracks geared toward everyone from neophytes to seasoned financial aid veterans. Although the training will still focus heavily on the NASFAA Core training materials, the tracks will have a little more crossover in topics than they have in the past. It'll be "A Gem of an Opportunity", and I encourage you to attend if you can.
Finally, don't forget that our Spring Conference is right around the corner. It will, once again, be a great opportunity to learn and network with your fellow NeASFAA colleagues. I hope to see you all there!
|Leadership Book Review
Default Prevention Listserv Now Available
You're Not Running for Congress?
By Melinda Hogeland
If you are an individual that seems to find yourself attending meetings more times than not, then you may want to check out an interesting book called How To Make Meetings Work by Michael Doyle and David Straus.
When I picked this book off the shelf I was thinking to myself that this was just another self help book designed to tell people what they are doing wrong, however, it really does offer some great tips if you attend meetings on a regular basis. The book covers a variety of topics including starting and ending meetings on time, designing agendas that are practical, keeping an agenda on track, dealing with people that talk or criticize too much, increasing group participation, and nailing down accountability amongst group members.
If you're not acting as the meeting "organizer", the book does cover a variety of topics that can make you a better meeting participant. This includes such ideas as how to be a good note taker or group recorder, how to be a good listener, how to help the meeting facilitator stay on track with the agenda, and even some ideas on where to sit while at the meeting.
We all spend time attending meetings either on a daily or weekly basis. These meetings may be work related or not. So if you are looking to "touch up" your meeting skills, either as the organizer or meeting participant, I would recommend reading a copy of How to Make Meetings Work.
(The Communications Committee will be giving away 3 copies of this book at Spring Conference. Good luck!)
Prevention Listserv Now Available
Following discussions with the U.S. Department of Education, Rutgers University agreed to host a National Default Prevention Listserv. This list has been in operation since November 2003, and currently has 450 subscribers. The list is open to all financial aid officers, lenders, servicers, guarantors, education department personnel and their contractors. It provides an opportunity to exchange information about default management best practices and available services. ED's Federal Student Aid Office will post items of interest to the financial aid community on a monthly basis. All financial aid professionals are invited to contribute to the discussion.
To subscribe to the list, send a message to LISTSERV@EMAIL.RUTGERS.EDU with the command "SUBSCRIBE DEFAULT_PREVENTION@EMAIL.RUTGERS.EDU your name" in the body of the message.
In January I listened to President Bush's State of the Union Address.
Well, that's not entirely true. I actually listened to about five minutes of the address. I turned it off, annoyed with the partisanship of the remarks. I perceived it as an "Us and Them" speech. It wasn't really George W. that annoyed me. It was the partisanship of the whole political system that we have. I was just as annoyed at Ted Kennedy sitting on his hands suffering through the event. "Us and Them".
I've heard the English adversarial system that we've adopted for our courts described as a terrible system - but the best that anyone has ever come up with. Maybe the same can be said for our adversarial political system - terrible but the best we can do. There are those who have power and then there is the "loyal opposition".
But it still seems sad to me. I remember trying to get to sleep that night and being kept awake by formulating my own version of the "State of the Union" speech.
"My colleagues in the Congress. Each of you has been sent here by your constituents to create for this nation the best that our resources can provide. The same is true of me. And, even though this is an election year, it is incumbent on us - you and me together - to dream our best dreams for this country and concoct the best plans and programs that we can create together.
"And it doesn't matter who gets credit. What matters is that we look after our less fortunate brothers and sisters, educate our children, provide for the safety of our citizens, and find ways to be a good neighbor to the world community.
"To do that we must work together. The energy we spend fighting each other is lost to the real common cause on which we are elected to deliver. When we - or our predecessors - have accomplished anything in the past, it has been by compromise. But even that is settling for half. That's no longer enough. We need to develop a mind-set of consensus. That means we listen to each other, debate until we understand the pro's and con's, and then commit to the best we think we can do. Together.
"So ask not how we can thwart each other's plans. Ask rather how we can pool our wisdom and enthusiasm to create our best America together."
Naive. I know. Politics will never be that way. I know.
But what about your office? Congress isn't the only place where options are argued out, plans are made, and winners and losers are created. The effectiveness of your collective service to your students is dependent on your collective ability to buy into a common vision and work together to pursue it.
I do a training session that puts people into small groups and requires them to reach some group decisions. I listen in to the discussions. Almost invariably, each group will afterwards proclaim that its decisions were reached by consensus. Having listened in, I know better. Most often the truth is that the decisions were reached by majority rule, or by what I call the "tyranny of the vocal", or by manager's edict. Consensus happens when everyone's thinking is heard out for its merits and then each individual agrees to support the ultimate decision. Getting to that point takes time and finesse. Rarely do groups have the patience and skills to achieve it.
But how worth it the effort is! At your place the stakes aren't as high as they are for Congress. But - until you get elected to Congress or the Presidency - it's the world you can influence. Together.
Dan Brent is a Professional Development Officer with Citibank. He regularly presents seminars for Financial Aid people.
by Cindi Ramaeker
Since the formal request for Sponsorship Pledges for the 2003-04 year was made via email on July 31, 2003, commitments and payments include:
- 17 responses with paid sponsorships totaling $12,500
- EducationQuest Foundation has agreed to a Philanthropy Match up to $1,000
- 14 commitments to exhibit at the Spring '04 Conference
I would like to thank the following organizations for their
support of NeASFAA:
ASAP/Union Bank & Trust
First National Bank of Omaha
First National Beatrice
Foundation for Educational Services
Iowa Student Loan
National Student Loan Program
Platte Valley State Bank
TERI Education Loans
USA Funds Services
Wells Fargo EFS
Comparing this year to last year, we have $650 less in sponsorship pledges and 3 fewer exhibitors. In January 2004, email communications were sent to Commerce Bank and Wyoming Student Loan Corporation offering them the opportunity to be a sponsor/exhibitor.
In the upcoming weeks, our committee will begin to work closely with the Associate Sector on the philanthropy project for the Spring '04 Conference.
by Joan Jurek
The Awards Committee has been busy preparing for Spring Conference. Not only do we have the honor of awarding NeASFAA members for their distinguished service, we have a lot fun honoring those deserving of a "fun award." Although, it's too late to nominate for the prestigious awards, please keep in mind those members who should be recognized for a fun award. We have some great stories. If you have one to share, you may contact any one of the following committee members:
Joan Jurek, Chair
Kathy McConnell, Co-chair
We look forward to seeing you at Spring Conference!
PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT COMMITTEE
by Mark Krings
Spring is right around the corner and so is the NeASFAA Spring Conference in North Platte. The conference is scheduled for April 14 -16. If you plan to attend, you can register on-line. If you are planning to stay over at the Quality Inn and Suites, please take the time to make your room reservations as well.
The agenda is packed full with sessions that should provide something for everyone. Our general sessions include:
- Mark Cullinan, FBI will discuss national security issues, foreign students and the challenges they face, and general safety tips.
- Jeff Baker, Dept. of Education will join us via teleconference to address Reauthorization and the IRS data match.
- Jeanne Baer, Creative Training Solutions with some customer service tips we can all utilize.
- Jessica Fuchs, Attorney General's Office will discuss Identity Theft.
In addition, there will be breakout sessions, sector meetings, and plenty of relaxation with friends taking place during the conference. The Professional Development Committee invites all of you to join us in North Platte.
by Wendy Olson
The Membership Committee has been hard at work over the past months preparing for the grand unveiling of...drum roll please...the new Membership photo directory! Jenni Burke is finishing up the final touches on the directory, so we can hand it out at Spring Conference. You won't believe it when you see it! Glossy pages and bound, it is quite the professional tool for finding those folks with whom you just can't place the name with the face. Also useful to see, what others see when they look at you!
The other big project on our committee's agenda right now is of course the fast approaching New Comer's Welcome at the Spring Conference. We may not beat our record total of 22 from Fall Institute, but I am sure fun will be had by all!
Lastly, we are gearing up to pass the torch to next year's committee. Although the people will not be the same, I am sure that the sentiment will be. Membership has is privileges! Ok, so I stole that, but I tell you we were a great group of great people who had a great year!
Take care, and I hope to see everyone at Spring Conference!
GETTING TO KNOW...
Director for Student Financial Services
Union College - Lincoln, NE
Jack Burdick got his
start in financial aid at Union College in June of 2003. He was
quickly sent off to the RMASFAA Summer Institute for a "crash
course" in financial aid because he needed to quickly put his
skills and knowledge to use at Union College. "I really appreciate
all the support I have received from the financial aid community.
My greatest reward is that I am able to help students achieve their
dream of earning a college degree."
Jack grew up in Tennessee. He is a CPA and received his BA in Economics from the University of the South and his MBA from Vanderbilt University. Prior to moving to Nebraska, Jack and his family lived in Atlanta for 9 years, where he worked as a financial analyst for MCI Telecommunications and as a systems analyst for Scientific-Atlanta.
Family and living "the good life" brought Jack and his family to Nebraska. Prior to taking his position at Union College, he was an accounting manager for a small plastics deck and fencing company in York. Jack and his family enjoy being close to grandparents and the family-friendly atmosphere of Lincoln.
Jack and his wife, Janene, have been married for 7 years. They have two children, John, 4, and Joy, 2, and a second son due any day. A side note: John and Joy celebrate the same February 8 birthday and were born EXACTLY 2 years and 1 minute apart! You may also want to extend warm birthday wishes to Jack as he just turned the big 4-0 on March 6.
Away from work, Jack spends most of his time being a dad. One of his favorite places to take the kids is the Lincoln Children's Museum. Having lived in Baltimore for 3 years and Atlanta for 9, he is also a big baseball fan and hopes to hit Haymarket Park this spring and summer.
Movers & Shakers
The following stories are the latest in an ever changing Nebraska world of financial aid.
and Overcast (Boy, are we blue about
Dana College said good-bye to Amy Lyons. Our best wishes go to Amy in her new position in Continuing Education.
Clarkson College said good-bye to Wendy Cobb. We wish Wendy the best of luck and hope to see her back in Financial Aid soon.
College of St. Mary said good-bye to Jenny Mosher. Good luck Jenny!
It is with congratulations and sorrow that the world of financial aid will bid adieu to Michelle Reeson of Midland College. Michelle has accepted a position at Midland in another department full time! We are so happy for her opportunity, yet will miss her greatly!! Be sure to wish her well when you see her!
Weather: Sunny skies
Will Peanuts creator Charles Schultz be her new father-in-law? Heck no, but Laura Jandl from Wells Fargo will have Schultz for a new last name! Laura was recently engaged to be married!! Don't be blinded by her new engagement ring! They are tying the knot June 3, 2005. Congrats to the bride and groom!
Now don't let the glare from Shareen Cundall's (of UNO) new engagement ring blind you either! Shareen and boyfriend Craig will be tying the knot this summer in Lincoln! We will let her give the lessons on pronunciation of her new last name! Best of luck you two crazy kids!
Western Nebraska Community College reports that they have a new addition to their office staff. Grace Hendrickson goes from working part time since August of 2001, to full time member of the family. Grace will fill the position of Michelle Mashmeier. Welcome Grace!
Doane College welcomes Nicole Wendelin to their
Lincoln Financial Aid office. Welcome Nicole!
The new NeASFAA board of directors is getting ready to meet for the first time and committees will be announced soon! Otherwise, things seem to be quiet on the home front!
Supports Students through Scholarship Donations
by Mark Krings
National Student Loan Program
During 2004, NSLP will help Nebraska students pay college expenses through a $5,000 contribution to the Reaching Your Potential scholarship program, and by doubling the funds awarded through its Cash for Class program.
Reaching Your Potential is a program of EducationQuest Foundation - a private nonprofit organization headquartered in the same downtown Lincoln location as NSLP. NSLP's contribution will add to the $80,000 EducationQuest will award this year in renewable, need-based scholarships to Nebraskans who overcome obstacles to attend college.
Through Cash for Class, NSLP provides scholarship funds each year to schools throughout the country. NSLP selects the schools during drawings at conferences for RMASFAA, MASFAA, SWASFAA, SASFAA, WASFAA, and EASFAA. The program is so popular among schools that NSLP recently doubled its Cash for Class contribution. This means twelve schools will each receive $1,000 they can award to deserving students.
"We're pleased to support programs like Cash for Class and Reaching Your Potential because they help students pursue higher education, and that's what our mission is all about," Nancy Wiederspan said.
Higher-Education Tax Benefits Highlighted
by Larry Viterna
USA Funds Services Regional Director
Students and families who paid college expenses during 2003 may qualify for higher-education deductions or credits when they file their federal income-tax returns. Tax-law changes in recent years have added and expanded higher-education tax benefits. As they prepare their 2003 federal income-tax returns, students and parents should be advised to see if they qualify for savings under these tax-law provisions:
Benefit: You may be able to reduce your taxable income by up to $2,500 for interest paid during the tax year on your student loans.
Income limits: If you are a single taxpayer with a modified adjusted gross income of between $50,000 and $65,000, you can take a partial deduction. If your income is below $50,000 - below $100,000 if you are married and filing jointly - you qualify for the full deduction. Married taxpayers with modified adjusted gross incomes of between $100,000 and $130,000 may qualify for a partial deduction if they file joint tax returns.
Other information: Deductible interest includes loan-origination fees, capitalized interest and voluntary interest payments on loans taken out solely to pay qualified educational expenses for a student enrolled at least half time. Interest paid on loans from a relative or made under a qualified employer plan does not qualify for the deduction. You can claim this deduction even if you don't itemize deductions.
Benefit: You may reduce your federal income tax by as much as $1,500 per student for out-of-pocket tuition and fees for each of the first two years of study toward a degree or certificate from a college or vocational school. Students must be enrolled at least half time to qualify.
Income limits: If you are single and have a modified adjusted gross income of $51,000 or more, or married, filing jointly, with a modified adjusted gross income of $103,000 or more, you do not qualify for this credit. If you're single and your modified adjusted gross income is between $41,000 and $51,000 - or married, filing jointly, with a modified adjusted gross income of between $83,000 and $103,000 - you may qualify for a partial credit.
Other information: You cannot claim both the Hope Tax Credit and Lifetime Learning Credit for the same student for the same year.
Benefit: You may be able to reduce your federal income tax by as much as $2,000 for qualified tuition and related expenses paid for students enrolled in an eligible postsecondary institution. The maximum credit equals 20 percent of the first $10,000 of qualified expenses.
Income limits: Income limits are the same as for the Hope Tax Credit.
Other information: The Lifetime Learning Credit is available for any year of education beyond high school, including vocational, college, graduate and professional education. The student does not need to be pursuing a degree or certificate to qualify, and the credit is available for students taking one or more courses. You cannot claim both the Hope Tax Credit and the Lifetime Learning Credit for the same student for the same year.
Benefit: You may be able to reduce your taxable income by up to $3,000 for qualified higher-education expenses that you paid during the tax year. This deduction may benefit you if your income is too high to qualify for either the Hope or Lifetime Learning credits.
Income limits: You may qualify for this deduction if you are a single taxpayer with a modified adjusted gross income of $65,000 or less, or married with a modified adjusted gross income of $130,000 or less, and you file a joint return with your spouse.
Other information: In general, higher-education expenses that qualify for the deduction are tuition and fees paid for you or your spouse or dependent. You may include student-activity fees and fees for course books, supplies and equipment if you were required to pay those fees to the institution in order to attend. Room and board is not an eligible expense, however. You may not claim this deduction and higher-education tax credits - such as Hope or Lifetime Learning credits - for the same student in the same year. You can claim this deduction even if you don't itemize deductions.
Employer-provided education benefits
Benefit: You may be able to exclude from your taxable income up to $5,250 in higher-education assistance provided by your employer each year.
Other information: Undergraduate- and graduate-education assistance qualify for this tax benefit. Eligible employer-provided education benefits include payment for tuition, fees, books, supplies and equipment.
Benefit: You may be able to exclude from your taxable income earnings from state-sponsored qualified-tuition programs, commonly known as 529 savings plans, that you used to pay for qualified education expenses. These plans permit you to prepay or invest to pay higher-education expenses.
Other information: To qualify for this benefit, you must have used the proceeds of a 529-plan distribution for tuition, fees, books, supplies and equipment at a qualified higher-education institution. In the case of room-and-board costs, check with the educational institution to determine the amount considered "reasonable" for that school for the deduction. You also may contribute to qualified-tuition plans sponsored by educational institutions, but any earnings distributed from these plans prior to 2004 will be taxable.
Education Savings Accounts
Benefit: You may contribute up to $2,000 annually to a Coverdell Education Savings Account, formerly known as education IRAs, on behalf of a designated beneficiary who is younger than age 18 or is a special-needs beneficiary, to pay qualified education expenses. Although these contributions are not tax-deductible, they will grow tax-free until withdrawn.
Income limits: If you're single, and your modified adjusted gross income is less than $95,000 - or married and filing jointly with a modified adjusted gross income of less than $190,000 - you can contribute the maximum amount. If you're single and your modified adjusted gross income is between $95,000 and $110,000 - or married and filing jointly with a modified adjusted gross income of between $190,000 and $220,000 - you may make a reduced contribution.
Other information: Proceeds of Coverdell accounts may be used to pay certain elementary- and secondary-education expenses, as well as expenses for postsecondary studies. Contributions to Coverdell accounts and 529 plans are permitted for the same beneficiary in the same year. You may take a tax-free distribution from a Coverdell account in the same year that you claim a Hope or Lifetime Learning credit, as long as you don't use your Coverdell-account distribution for the same expenses for which you claimed the credit. Starting with the 2003 tax year, the federal government will not charge excise tax on excess Coverdell-account contributions, as long as the excess and earnings from that amount are withdrawn by May 31 of the following calendar year.
If you qualify, a tax credit generally is more beneficial than a deduction. A credit directly reduces the tax that you owe. A deduction reduces the amount of your income that is taxable. To determine the value of a deduction, multiply the amount of the deduction by your tax rate.
Please note that this information is intended as a general summary of these tax benefits. Financial-aid administrators should refer students and their families to a qualified tax adviser or the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to determine eligibility for any of these benefits. They may reach the IRS on the Web at www.irs.gov, or by phone at (800) 829-1040. For additional information, order IRS Publication 970, "Tax Benefits for Education."
Further information is available in the free USA Funds® brochure "Higher-Education Tax Benefits - Expanded Taxpayer Savings." The brochure is available to view and to order by visiting www.usafunds.org/forms/order_pubs.asp on the USA Funds Web site.
"A teacher affects eternity; no one can tell
where his influence stops."