Presidential Campaign Reps, Sen. Dick Durbin Begin NASFAA Conference With Policy Dialogue

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Education Undersecretary Martha Kanter also to Address Financial Aid Professionals 

July 23, 2012 – NASFAA’s National Conference opened with fanfare yesterday as 2,500 attendees welcomed key higher education policy advisors from the Barack Obama and Mitt Romney presidential campaigns. James Kvaal, policy director at “Obama for America” and Scott Fleming, education policy advisor at “Romney for President” kicked off the conference with a lively dialogue on student aid funding, increasing college access, and concepts for policy reform.

The discussion, moderated by NASFAA President Justin Draeger, marked one of the first times that the campaigns have publicly discussed key higher education agenda items. A video of the campaign discussion is now available.

While Kvaal highlighted President Obama’s investments in higher education initiatives to improve consumer information and college affordability as well as his support for an increased maximum Pell Grant of $5,635 for the 2013-14 award year, Fleming focused on deficit reduction and Romney’s goal to reduce burdensome regulations and strengthen private sector participation in student loans.

“You’d be hard-pressed to find any president who’s responded more aggressively on the question of college affordability and college debt than [Obama],” Kvaal said. “He’s doubled the investment in Pell Grants. He’s doubled the investment in tax credits for college…he’s accelerated the implementation of the income-based repayment plan and made those terms more favorable.”

Fleming said he admired the President’s goal to vastly increase the number of college graduates the nation produces, but said “we are not making nearly enough progress for the amount of money we’re spending to get there.”

“Instead of tackling these issues head on, I think we’re seeing a Department of Education distracted by sideshows that are not helping to improve access for students at any level and are certainly not helping to improve the cost of education,” Fleming said.

U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), who serves as the Majority Whip, addressed attendees this morning, sharing his thoughts on the history and future of student aid, the student debt problem, workforce development, and the DREAM Act.

Durbin also highlighted his “Know Before You Owe Private Student Loan Act,” which would require private student lenders to certify loans with schools, and another bill that would allow judges to dismiss private students loans in bankruptcy.

Speaking on his support for the DREAM Act, which would allow a path to citizenship for qualified undocumented students, Durbin said, “For those who came here [as immigrants], they are part of our American family and our diversity. What most immigrants come here with is a determination to work hard, take the toughest jobs, and say to their kids, ‘go to school.’”

Financial aid administrators, higher education industry experts and reporters in attendance also heard a personalized video welcome from Secretary of Education Arne Duncan at the opening session, who expressed optimism for working together in the future to improve student outcomes. “Collectively, you do great work,” Duncan told aid administrators.

“We come here to affirm our common purpose: that no qualified student should be denied access to a college education due to lack of financial resources,” NASFAA President Justin Draeger told conferees. “You are in a unique position to observe, first-hand, the effectiveness and impact of student aid programs, policies and regulations.”

On Tuesday, July 24 at 12:30 p.m., special guest Martha Kanter, Under Secretary, U.S. Department of Education, will also address the group.

In addition to the keynotes, more than 100 sessions in 10 different subject-matter tracks will provide valuable information for any attendee.  Tracks include (among others):

- Consumer Information & Customer Service

- Student Access & Success/Diversity Issues

- Financial Literacy and Student Loan Counseling

Please visit our online media resource center for more information. To request an interview with a NASFAA spokesperson during the conference, please email and




The National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA) is a nonprofit membership organization that represents nearly 20,000 financial aid professionals at 2,800 colleges, universities, and career schools across the country. Each year, financial aid professionals help more than 16 million students receive funding for post secondary education. Based in Washington, D.C., NASFAA is the only national association with a primary focus on student aid legislation, regulatory analysis, and training for financial aid administrators.