When a big change happens that affects a financial aid office (and, to be honest, in life in general) we often have one of two reactions: WAHOOO or OH NOOO! Last year when it was announced that President Obama had taken executive action to allow for the use of Prior-Prior Year (PPY) tax data on the FAFSA what was your reaction? I’ll admit that I fell much closer to the OH NOOO side of things.
PPY: In theory and reality
I think we all agree, in theory, that the shift to PPY should allow students to complete the FAFSA earlier and more accurately. It would be great if theory and reality aligned, but that is not always the case. In reality, will schools be able to effectively and efficiently take action on those applications? Will state budgets, finalized PELL charts and system readiness align? These are big unknowns.
Unsmooth rollouts cause panic attacks
When you heard the news about PPY, did you have flashbacks to the elimination of FFEL and, more recently, the transitions finaid made to the FSA ID and GE reporting? Me too. Rollouts of initiatives like these have not always gone smoothly. Increased administrative burden already has aid offices stretched thin all year, but the opening of new aid years in October, a time filled with IPEDS, FISAPS, GE disclosure updates, the wrap up of the September start, and evaluations of institutional awarding philosophies is enough to cause a panic attack.
Managing change well starts with you
That being said, we have become masters of change as it seems that the true goal of ED is to never let things stay in place long enough for anyone to get too comfortable. In becoming exceptional at change management one learns to brainstorm all of the potential impacts and manage those that can be controlled. To take time and educate all parties on potential risks and develop mitigation plans.
Manage what you can control, plan for what you can’t
With PPY, my brain has constantly been thinking about all of the changes finaid needs to implement to make it work, for both students and for staff. For me, the most concerning of these changes are focused around the shifting timeframes for FAFSA availability, awarding, verification processing, setting tuition, PELL charts publications, ISIR Guide availability, SAR comment codes and text availability, System configuration, and student counseling.
Needless to say, 80% of these things are outside of the financial aid office’s control. However, being out of one’s control does not mean that one cannot plan for what is known and be ready to act quickly and efficiently when the time comes.
There are a lot of moving parts and consultancies that need to be considered with PPY, including administrators, board members, staff, and even students. How is your planning going? Are you feeling overwhelmed? Do you know where to go for resources? Are the resources you’ve found lacking? Take this short survey (we promise, it’s short. We know how busy you are!).
Weekly information on PPY, right here
We’ll be launching new PPY tools and resources here on the blog each week to help finaid offices implement PPY efficiently, effectively, and with as little anxiety as possible. Now’s your chance to tell us what information and resources you really need when it comes to PPY—we’re listening.