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Ascent Blog

NASFAA 2024: Key Takeaways, Inspiring Moments and Insights!

Jul 03, 2024 | By: Ascent
Category: For Schools

Kumba McGill, Ascent’s Relationship Manager, recently attended the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA) Conference in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She walked away with valuable insights that are sure to benefit our borrowers and the colleges and universities we partner with. 

Ultimately, Kumba left the conference excited and invigorated by how much Ascent is already doing to empower the future of our students, and where we can continue to innovate.  

More from Kumba below:  

My Unforgettable Experience at NASFAA 2024  

Stepping into NASFAA 2024 for the first time was both exhilarating and nerve-wracking. As I arrived in Milwaukee, I couldn’t help but feel a mix of excitement and anticipation. This was my chance to represent Ascent and connect with the very people who help shape students’ futures. 

Day 1: First Day Jitters   

While I started the conference with first-day jitters (as I’d imagine many of our students experience when they walk into their first day of college), my anxieties immediately dissipated. Through Community Day, I was able to solidify our coveted relationships with College Financial Aid Officers. Together, we explored the city, including the beautiful scenery of Lake Michigan. Over a shared meal, I experienced my first “aha moment” of the conference: whether we are student lenders or within collegiate financial aid offices, we all share the common and hugely important goal of supporting students’ educational journeys. 

Day 2: A Charitable Start   

Together with hundreds of conference participants, I laced up my running shoes and ran in the charity 5K which raised funds for All-In Milwaukee (AIM). This was especially meaningful as its mission closely mirrors ours at Ascent. AIM is a college completion program that provides financial aid, advising, program and career support to high-potential, limited-income, diverse Milwaukee students, helping them complete college, build meaningful careers, and transform the Milwaukee community. 

Sound familiar? At Ascent, we fill the gaps between financial aid and the cost of tuition AND we invest in their success during and after college, as well. 

Through our AscentUP^2 platform, Ascent offers one-on-one coaching and ongoing career development and financial wellness training, which has empowered 82,000+ students since we began offering it to borrowers. I encourage you to check it out, as we even offer it to career services offices at higher education institutions: (Ascent UP for Schools: https://www.ascentfunding.com/ascentup/schools/) 

Similarly, we contribute to the financial journey of limited-income students, with 93% of our borrowers last year who qualify as low income, as according to the 2023 Impact Report

Of course, our goal at Ascent isn’t simply to fund college, but to send students out into the world prepared to find a job, be hired for that job, succeed in that job, and to end the cycle that limits students’ ability to build durable economic mobility, increasing both salaries and FICO scores. 

First-Time Attendee Session 

After the 5K, I attended what felt like a Cliff’s Notes version of the conference, the First-Time Attendee Session. Here, I was able to once again break the ice and connect with others who share my role and the financial aid officers we work so closely with. 

The Meat of the Conference 

It was affirming to see that we’re doing it right at Ascent, and I’m excited to bring new ideas and inspiration back to our team and students. Just a few of the sessions I found impactful included “FAFSA Simplification: Expectations vs. Reality,” “Advancing Success for Undocumented Students,” and “Decoding Financial Aid Offers: Insights from the College Cost Transparency Initiative.” 

Surprise and Delight Experiences 

The outgoing NASFAA President & CEO, Justin Draeger, entered the conference on a motorcycle to a roaring crowd, which reiterated our passion for this industry and the impact we’re making on students’ financial futures. Thank you for your leadership over the past 14 years, Justin! 

 Conversations that Matter  

My favorite moments of the conference were the meaningful conversations I had with financial aid administrators about Ascent, and how we empower bright futures through our undergraduate and graduate student loan programs and the wrap-around career and financial support services they engage with throughout the life of the student’s loan. I loved seeing their awe when I brought up our latest and greatest offerings, including Ascent’s: 

  • Zero Fees Policy: No late or insufficient funds, application, origination, disbursement, or early repayment fees 
  • New Parent Loan1: Launched in April to help parents, guardians, and sponsors fund their students’ education when they might not be eligible for loans otherwise 

Of course, I reminded them about our ongoing commitment to our long-time innovative offerings which can benefit their students, including Ascent’s: 

  • Flexible repayment plans, including immediate repayment and discounts with autopayments1
  • Monthly $1,000 scholarship giveaways4
  • Rewards and cash-back programs1
  • Unique AscentUP2 program and access to paid, remote internship3 opportunities

Leaving Inspired 

By the end of the NASFAA 2024 conference, I felt a profound sense of purpose, especially with our administrators’ overwhelmingly positive feedback and affirmation that what we’re doing matters. I’m leaving Milwaukee with a renewed passion for my work and a deeper appreciation for our larger financial aid and lending community who, together, empower students’ educational realities. 

Thank You NASFAA 

Thank you NASFAA for a fantastic conference experience and for your ongoing commitment to ensuring financial aid supports students’ futures. 

If you made it to the end of this lengthy post, I’m hopeful that you are equally as energized by our mission and want to be involved in the critical work we’re doing. We’d love to hear from you. 

If you’re one of the many colleges or universities, we already work with: Thank you! Let’s meet again soon to ensure you’re up to date on our recent product offerings! 

If you’re a school, we haven’t had the pleasure of partnering with yet: Let’s explore how we can be added to your preferred lenders’ list and how we can best support your students’ needs. 

Learn more about the amazing benefits we offer our schools, comment below, or schedule a meeting with me here. Together, we can change the lives of even more students! 

1. Ascent loans are funded by Bank of Lake Mills or DR Bank, each Member FDIC. Certain restrictions, limitations, terms and conditions apply. For complete terms and conditions visit AscentFunding.com/Ts&Cs. For rates and repayment examples, visit AscentFunding.com/Rates. For borrower benefits, visit AscentFunding.com/BorrowerBenefits. 

2. To be eligible for coaching through AscentUP, the student borrower must be an undergraduate who has been completed and approved for an Ascent college loan application and has agreed to the AscentUP terms of service. Ascent’s consumer loans for bootcamps and graduate student loans do not qualify for AscentUP coaching. 

3. Eligibility for the AscentUP platform requires that an applicant be enrolled in an Ascent approved institution who has been conditionally approved for an Ascent loan, either as the borrower or through a parent, grandparent, guardian, or sponsor. Ascent’s graduate student loan applicants and consumer loan applicants qualify for access to the AscentUP platform if their approved school has granted access. All Ascent borrowers have access to free AscentUP resources through the AscentConnect mobile app and are eligible to apply for the AscentUP Internship Program. Eligible students must agree to the AscentUP terms of service and privacy policy before accessing the AscentUP platform. Please note that eligibility criteria and program terms are subject to change. 

4. See Ascent’s Scholarship Giveaway Official Rules here

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