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Financial Aid

THE QUESTIONABLE AC-tions of a few financial aid directors and a lack of clear guidance on private student loans sparked a political and media firestorm that associate all financial aid professionals with the questionable practices of less than 0.1 percent of the profession.

THE RECENT SCRUTINY OF relationships between colleges and student loan companies has sparked an explosion of guidance to eliminate any appearance of conflicts of interest in the student loan program.

THE RECENT SCRUTINY OF colleges' preferred lender lists by state and federal officials, while intended to expose unscrupulous student lending practices, has generated a flood of misleading information in the media and in political arenas about a common practice designed to benefit students.

The rapid increase in private, or alternative, student loans increases the importance of financial aid administrators, who provide crucial information to families about terms and conditions of various loan options.

There is almost unanimous consent that the process used to determine a student's financial need or expected family contribution (EFC) to pay for higher education is overly complicated.

Miami university in Ohio and Michigan State University have recently joined a growing number of higher education institutions that are making efforts to expand the financial aid that's available to low-income students-guaranteeing to cover certain costs of attendance for these students.

Theft of personal data has made headlines across the country, hitting college campuses particularly hard because of the nature of college networks, which must balance wide network access with data security.

Lawmakers' rhetoric suggests they understand the value of giving low-income and minority students the opportunity to attain a higher education. Given this apparent awareness by legislators, it is a bit puzzling that need-based student aid remains such a low funding priority in local, state, and federal budgets.

The Deficit Reduction Act that became law February 8 has received harsh criticism for cutting student aid spending by $12.7 billion over five years, but it also includes provisions that will benefit many students and families. Two major challenges now face institutions of higher ed: