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"Abolishing the U.S. Department of Education in the name of saving taxpayer dollars is just a 'shell game' that would not save any money but hurt millions of students who rely on federal student aid, an opponent of a proposed measure to get rid of the agency by the end of next year said Wednesday," Diverse: Issues in Higher Education reports.

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"The beauty of free public college proposals is their simplicity: Remove the barrier of high tuition costs and you’ll open the doors to wider economic prosperity. Easy, right? Not exactly," according to Money.

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"Recent personnel choices at the Department of Education have received scrutiny for connections to private industry and personal ideologies at odds with the mission of their office. But the appointment of James Manning, a career public official, has drawn a different sort of reaction," Inside Higher Ed reports.

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"Last June, Martin Chibwe, a computer science major, graduated from Evergreen State College, in Olympia, Washington, a liberal arts campus with a hipster ethos that shuns letter grades and urges exploration ('We don’t tell you what to take,' its website promises). His computer science courses covered topics like programming, machine learning and artificial intelligence; Chibwe even did a project on recommendation algorithms for an online library. But days after getting his diploma, and despite the big investment ($39,000 in student loans), he sought another credential to 'stack' on top to make him more marketable," according to The Hechinger Report.

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With only hours before a potential government shutdown, Congress is expected  to extend the clock today on negotiating a spending package for federal fiscal year (FY) 2017 (impacting award year 2017-18). This short-term continuing resolution (CR) will fund the government through next Friday. Final campus-based aid allocations for award year 2017-18 cannot be made until Congress settles FY 2017. For more information on what to expect in this spending package, see this article from Tuesday’s Today’s News on the current state of the budget process.

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"Fannie Mae has unveiled a new program that allows borrowers to directly pay off outstanding student loans by refinancing their homes. For some, it may be an expedient way to consolidate debt at a lower rate. But consumers should be cautious about taking the leap, says Rohit Chopra, senior fellow at the Consumer Federation of America," the Boston Globe reports.

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"The notion that college is unaffordable is often a part of the national discourse on higher education. ... But there's a big problem with this narrative: It's all about cost and not at all about the benefits of higher education," Beth Akers, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, writes in an opinion piece for U.S. News & World Report.

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"State higher education institutions like New Mexico State University get more than 50% of their funding from the state. In an ongoing dispute over the state budget Governor Susana Martinez recently vetoed higher education funding in its entirety. The move has many left NMSU students, staff and community stakeholders in the dark and apprehensive about the feasibility of their future at the university. ASNMSU and state legislators hosted a forum to address concerns," KRWG reports.

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"Florida’s year-to-year improvement in FAFSA completion through the end of March resulted in more than $37 million in additional Pell Grant dollars being awarded to graduating seniors this school year," according to a blog post from the Florida College Access Network.

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 Off the Cuff

This week on "Off The Cuff," Justin and Allie discuss the Department of Education's recent action to provide relief for verification documentation in light of the continued IRS Data Retrieval Tool outage. Justin gives an overview of the latest with the federal budget for fiscal year 2017, and what we can expect for student aid funding for this year and next. Allie discusses an apparent stalling in debt relief for students who have submitted borrower defense claims, and Justin explains a new $30,000 contract ED has purchased for training to conduct staff reductions. Plus, Justin looks into what insight Facebook ads can give into people's interests, and tells us about NASFAA's "Run Like Pell" Ragnar team, version 2.0.

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Statement of Purpose

“The Minnesota Association of Financial Aid Administrators (MAFAA) is an association of professionals committed to the principle that no one should be denied access to higher education for financial reasons.”