STUDENT FINANCIAL AID RESEARCH NETWORK

38th Annual SFARN Conference
Virtual
June 3-4, 2021


Info | Presentations | Presenter Biographies


Federal Update


Megan McClean Coval is the Vice President of Policy and Federal Relations at the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA) where she oversees the Association's policy and advocacy efforts. Prior to joining NASFAA in the fall of 2010, she served as the Director of Government Relations for the federal Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance, where she contributed to several congressionally mandated reports on the postsecondary access and persistence of low- and moderate- income students. Megan began her career in higher education as an admissions counselor at Penn State University. She received a master's in higher education at Penn State and BA in political science from Allegheny College.

Carrie Warick is the director of policy and advocacy for the National College Attainment Network. She leads NCAN’s policy agenda setting at both the federal and state levels and oversees NCAN’s advocacy work and professional development for NCAN member programs. This includes leading NCAN’s successful push for Congress to pass FAFSA simplification legislation and overseeing management of NCAN’s advocacy grantees. Since joining NCAN in May 2008, Ms. Warick has served as a program associate, the director of member services, and the director of partnerships and policy. In these positions, she managed NCAN's technical assistance to statewide and regional networks, developed and disseminated resources and training to NCAN members as well as managing membership events, communications, recruitment, and renewal. Ms. Warick holds a Masters of Public Policy, with a concentration in education policy, and a bachelor’s degree in international affairs and history, both from The George Washington University. While pursuing her master's, Ms. Warick was a Presidential Administrative Fellow and worked in various areas of communication within GW. Warick is a longtime member of Women in Government Relations and previously served as co-chair of the Education Taskforce. She lives with her husband and two daughters in Northeast DC.


Resetting Higher Education: Policy, Programs, Funding


Thomas G. Mortenson is a Senior Scholar at the Pell Institute for the Study of Opportunity in Higher Education in Washington, D.C. and an independent higher education policy analyst. Tom's policy research focuses on opportunity for postsecondary education and training and the ways public policy fosters or impedes access to that opportunity. He has special concern for populations that are under-represented in higher education. His studies have addressed academic and financial preparation for college, access, choice, persistence, attainment, and labor force entry of college graduates. He is particularly interested in public and private finance of higher education opportunity and the enrollment consequences of the cost-shift from taxpayers to students that has been underway since 1980. He has been employed in policy research and budget analysis roles for the University of Minnesota, Illinois Board of Higher Education, Illinois State Scholarship Commission, and the American College Testing Program. Currently, Tom is editor and publisher of Postsecondary Education Opportunity (PEO), a monthly research newsletter devoted to analysis and reporting on the demographics, sociology, history, politics and economics of educational opportunity after high school. He provides consulting services on higher educational opportunity policy to state and national organizations, and makes presentations on opportunity throughout the country.


The Consequences of the COVID-19 Pandemic on College Students


Allyson Cornett is a Research Analyst at Trellis Company. Since joining the team in 2017, she has led a variety of research initiatives, including the design, implementation, and analysis of a rapid response COVID-19 (coronavirus) impact survey fielded at nine HBCUs/PBIs; several projects focusing on persistence, retention, and re-engaging stop-out students; and the Financial Security Study, a longitudinal, interview-based project examining the basic needs and academic experiences of 72 college students in Texas and Florida. Before Trellis Company, Allyson was employed as a researcher in the Anthropology Department at the University of North Texas. She is currently finishing her Master of Public Health (MPH) in Behavioral and Community Health from the University of North Texas Health Science Center.

Michael Bohlig is Senior Research Analyst for the Center for Community College Student Engagement. Dr. Bohlig has a Ph.D. in Educational Psychology with an emphasis on tests and measurement focusing on Psychometrics, Item Response Theory, Structural Equation Modeling and longitudinal data analysis. Dr. Bohlig has extensive experience in applied statistical research in the areas of epidemiology, community-based clinical trials in behavioral research, and pharmaceutical clinical trials which provides him with an excellent understanding and knowledge as well as extensive skills in conducting rigorous scientifically-based research. Dr. Bohlig supervises the Research and Data Analysis team which is responsible for data management and reporting of these three survey instruments. He is also responsible for psychometric analysis of the Center’s instruments and statistical analysis of the Center’s extensive data base on over one million Community College students.


Hanging On or Falling Off? The State of Collegiate Financial Wellness


Jeff Webster, Director of Research, has worked for Trellis since 1986. Jeff has overseen numerous studies on student loan default, debt burden, student retention, and the demand for financial aid. His area administered the most comprehensive analysis of the efficacy of federal student loan counseling and currently conducts an annual survey on student financial wellness. Jeff has presented to many groups including the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve, the federal Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance, the Financial Literacy and Education Commission, and various Texas legislative committees. His latest research focuses on low food security among college students.

Gary R. Mottola is the research director for the FINRA Investor Education Foundation and a social psychologist with over 25 years of research experience. In his role at the FINRA Foundation, he oversees and conducts research projects aimed at better understanding financial capability in America, protecting investors from financial fraud, and improving financial disclosure statements. Dr. Mottola received his B.A. from the University at Albany, M.A. from Brooklyn College, and Ph.D. from the University of Delaware. He was a visiting scholar at Wharton in 2006 and is an adjunct professor of statistics in Villanova University’s MBA program.

Jill Jones. As managing director of research for the National Endowment for Financial Education (NEFE), Jill Jones’ responsibilities include research and evaluation efforts through overseeing the grants cycle, directed research, scholarly engagement, and the Evaluation ToolKit. Prior to joining NEFE, Jones was a senior research consultant at Hanover Research where she worked with over 250 higher education institutions, K-12 school districts, state agencies and non-profits. Jones earned a doctorate in education at the University of Virginia. She has a master’s degree in education from the University of Maryland, and a bachelor’s degree in management and organizational behavior from Case Western Reserve University.


Meeting, Failing, and Appealing Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP)


Nicholas Hillman is an Associate Professor in the School of Education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Dr. Hillman’s research examines how finance, policy, and geography shape educational opportunities in the United States. He also directs the Student Success Through Applied Research Lab, a research-practice partnership with the university’s Division of Enrollment Management and Office of Student Financial Aid. Dr. Hillman co-edited the book, Accountability and Opportunity in Higher Education: The Civil Rights Dimension and is a faculty affiliate with the University of Wisconsin’s Institute for Research on Poverty and the La Follette School of Public Affairs.

Kim Dancy is a graduate assistant with the SSTAR lab and a doctoral student in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis. She also works as a research associate at the Institute for Higher Education Policy based in Washington, DC. Kim previously worked as a researcher at New America’s Education Policy Program and the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce. She holds a Master of Public Policy from Georgetown University’s McCourt School of Public Policy and a Bachelor of Arts in Public Policy from the University of Michigan. She enjoys yoga, running, exploring nature, and spending time with friends and family.

Joselyn Diaz-Valdes serves as the FASTrack & BANNER Manager for the Office of Student Financial Aid (OSFA). She has worked at UW-Madison for the past 15 years. In OSFA she takes pride in managing the FASTrack and BANNER Programs which were created to assist students in overcoming the financial barriers of attending college. She is also the liaison for student veterans, TRIO CeO students, and First Wave Scholars. Joselyn is also part of the Satisfactory Academic Progress Committee in OSFA and helped form the recently established Latinx Academic Staff Association (LASA) at UW-Madison, where she serves as co-chair of the recruitment committee. She’s a Brooklyn native, UW-Madison alum, with a in B.A. in Sociology and an M.S. in Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis. When she isn’t busy working, Joselyn is a wife and mother of three very energetic and talented children. In her spare time, she enjoys staying involved in her community and spending time with her family.

Martina Diaz is a Senior Financial Aid Advisor with over 20 years of experience. She enjoys working with a diverse student population and campus partners. Connect with Martina to learn about your financial aid options as you invest in your higher education. She is a liaison to People, Posse, and University Special students and also participates in the Satisfactory Academic Progress committee and involved with the undocumented and DACA Student Taskforce on campus.


Strategies for Improving Online Survey Response Rates


Michael Bohlig is Senior Research Analyst for the Center for Community College Student Engagement. Dr. Bohlig has a Ph.D. in Educational Psychology with an emphasis on tests and measurement focusing on Psychometrics, Item Response Theory, Structural Equation Modeling and longitudinal data analysis. Dr. Bohlig has extensive experience in applied statistical research in the areas of epidemiology, community-based clinical trials in behavioral research, and pharmaceutical clinical trials which provides him with an excellent understanding and knowledge as well as extensive skills in conducting rigorous scientifically-based research. Dr. Bohlig supervises the Research and Data Analysis team which is responsible for data management and reporting of these three survey instruments. He is also responsible for psychometric analysis of the Center’s instruments and statistical analysis of the Center’s extensive data base on over one million Community College students.


Equity Indicators, 2021: Post-Pandemic Reconstruction for a Non-Zero-Sum Game U.S. Higher Education System: A New Equity Paradigm with a focus on nontraditional students


Margaret Cahalan is the Vice President for Research, Director of the Pell Institute for the Study of Opportunity in Higher Education, of the Council for Opportunity in Education (COE). Over a 30-year career at she has directed numerous NCES national higher education surveys on the experiences of recent college graduates, as well as evaluations of TRIO programs including the National Evaluation of Student Support Services (SSS) and the National Evaluation of Educational Talent Search. She served as the Principal Investigator for the i-3 grant Using Data to Inform College Access Programming. She currently serves as the Principal Investigator of the NSF funded iStronG project to develop a curriculum designed to empower Upward Bound Students using systems dynamics modeling tools with a focus on green STEM careers and climate change solutions. Her experience as an external evaluator over many years has led to an increasing awareness of the critical need for a more collaborative, empowerment and action research approach, if the evaluations are to have validity and utility. She also has a life-long interest in historical demographic trend data as it relates to equity issues in the United States. She is the lead author on the Pell Institute and PennAHEAD publication series: Indicators of Higher Education Equity in the United States Historical Trend Reports. This project, now in its 6th edition, was begun in 2015, and has a major goal to serve as a tool for tracking progress from an equity perspective in the U.S .higher education system. The project also sponsors Shared Solutions Dialogues at the national, state, and local levels among multiple stakeholders to consider specific action plans to address the issues of systemic inequality in higher education.

Marisha Addison joined the Pell Institute for the Study of Opportunity in Higher Education as the Data Analyst/ Researcher in October 2019. Prior to joining the Pell Institute, she completed her Master of Science in Economic Geography from the University of Amsterdam. Marisha received her Bachelor of Arts in Geography and Sociology. She is an alumna of the TRIO Talent Search Program and a first-generation student.

Pooja R. Patel is a Ph.D. student in Higher Education at the University of Pennsylvania and previously worked as a policy researcher focusing on access and college admissions. Her research interests focus on higher education finance and its impact on access and affordability, particularly for students who come from marginalized backgrounds. Pooja’s current work focuses on the free college movement in the U.S. with an emphasis on program design and financial sustainability. Pooja is a Gates Millennium Scholar and received her M.A. from Boston College.


Maximizing the Use of Social Media to Advance Higher Education Research


Jeff Webster, Director of Research, has worked for Trellis since 1986. Jeff has overseen numerous studies on student loan default, debt burden, student retention, and the demand for financial aid. His area administered the most comprehensive analysis of the efficacy of federal student loan counseling and currently conducts an annual survey on student financial wellness. Jeff has presented to many groups including the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve, the federal Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance, the Financial Literacy and Education Commission, and various Texas legislative committees. His latest research focuses on low food security among college students.

Rachel Fishman is the deputy director for research with the Education Policy program at New America. She is a member of the higher education initiative, where she provides research and analysis on policies related to college finance, consumer protection and transparency, and access and success of post-traditional students. Fishman leads the initiative’s public opinion work including Varying Degrees, its signature annual survey. Fishman and her work have been cited in such media outlets as The New York Times, The Washington Post, and NPR. Her blogging on financial aid won a national award from the Education Writers Association in 2013.Fishman previously worked as an education advisor for The College Planning Center in Boston where she provided guidance to students and families on how to plan and pay for college. She holds a master’s degree in higher education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

Nicole Siegel has always maintained the belief that quality education is a human right and is dedicated to helping transform and improve our nation’s educational system through her work as the deputy director of education at Third Way. In this role, Nicole elevates Third Way’s efforts to focus the national higher education conversation on improving outcomes, particularly for low-income students, and works to expand that discussion beyond the higher ed wonks in our nation’s capital to the people it impacts every day across the country. Nicole manages and executes a multi-faceted advocacy effort to persuade policymakers and those who influence them that students and taxpayers deserve a better return on their investment by elevating the research and ideas of Third Way's higher education team and creatively deploying them to shape the federal higher education conversation on social media, on the Hill, through public and private events, and in the press to focus on student outcomes. Prior to joining Third Way, Nicole managed her parents’ restaurant in the mountains of Western North Carolina, consulted with the Asheville Chamber of Commerce on a workforce development initiative to better connect local college students to career and professional development opportunities, and served as the communications specialist for Smarter Balanced, one of the two testing consortia for the Common Core State Standards. She graduated with a B.A. in anthropology from North Carolina State University and holds a Master of Public Administration degree from American University.


Entering Payment Post COVID-19 - What do we know from Natural Disasters


Bryan Ashton serves as the Vice President of Community Investment and Government Affairs at Trellis Company (formerly TG). In this capacity, Bryan is responsible for leading the organization's college/university support efforts, student support efforts (including student financial coaching services and financial literacy efforts) and higher education policy / research efforts. Additionally, Bryan is the Co-Founder and Managing Director of the Higher Education Financial Wellness Alliance and formerly managed financial wellness initiatives at Ohio State University.


How has the COVID-19 pandemic changed students’ finances, and what does it mean for college success?


Lindsay Ahlman is the Associate Director of Research and Knowledge Management at TICAS. In this role, she helps lead TICAS research work in service of the organization’s mission to promote affordability, accountability, and equity in higher education. She also plays a key role across the organization by developing and enhancing systems and processes to support high quality programmatic outcomes and build a sustainable infrastructure. Prior to her current role, she was a Senior Policy Analyst on TICAS’ federal policy team, where her work focused on a range of policy issues, including the Pell Grant, student loan default, and federal data policy. Before joining TICAS, Lindsay worked on student financial aid policy and strategic budget planning as an analyst at the University of Maryland, College Park. As a consultant for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, she was also involved in a wide range of student access and affordability projects. Lindsay received BA and MS degrees from the University of Pennsylvania, and an MPP from the University of Maryland.


Getting to know the Student Aid Reference Desk


Jacob P. Gross is an Associate Professor of Higher Education Administration at the University of Louisville. He also directs for the Center for Economic Education and serves as Editor of the Journal of Student Financial Aid. His research focuses on policies that help students get into and through higher education.