Deanna I. Howes, Director of Communications, AJCU

September is always a busy month for AJCU and our member institutions, but this year takes the cake! In this issue of Connections, you will read about the impact of HEA (Higher Education Act) reauthorization on AJCU campuses, including Georgetown University, Le Moyne College and the University of Scranton. As always, AJCU’s Vice President for Federal Relations, Cyndy Littlefield, reports on the latest from Washington, D.C., including the fight to save the Perkins Loan Program and other campus-based aid programs.

In the midst of debates over HEA, Congress will also hear from Pope Francis, who will deliver an address to a joint session on Thursday, September 24th. Across the country, Jesuit colleges, universities, high schools and organizations will be among those groups eagerly anticipating his address. You can learn more about the national watch parties organized by our friends at the Ignatian Solidarity Network (ISN) by clicking here.

The Pope’s visit inspired a collaborative marketing campaign for U.S. Jesuit colleges and universities, which you can read about in a recent article here in Inside Higher Ed. In just a few months, AJCU and members of the AJCU Marketing & Communications Network designed an advertisement, social media campaign and blog that help to explain how a Jesuit education produces transformational leaders like Pope Francis. For more information, please visit

In next month’s issue of Connections, we will report on the 100th anniversary of Alpha Sigma Nu, as well as the upcoming inaugurations of four new presidents at Creighton University, Loyola Marymount University, Saint Joseph’s University and Spring Hill College. It’s certainly a busy fall, but we wouldn’t have it any other way!

All the best,

Deanna I. Howes
Director of Communications, AJCU

Cynthia A. Littlefield, Vice President for Federal Relations, AJCU


While Congress is working for only ten days in September, the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA) continues. Congress is embroiled in a debate over agreeing to the Iran nuclear deal, but whether the Federal government will continue to run after September 30th (the end of the fiscal year) remains in question.

The higher education community has a serious pressing matter in that the Perkins Loan Program will permanently shut down after September 30th unless Congress extends its authorization. Unfortunately, it will cost the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) $564 million to extend the Perkins Loan Program for one year. On September 9th, a press conference was held by Representatives Mark Pocan (D-WI) and Louise Slaughter (D-NY) to push Congress to extend the Perkins Loan Program. Representatives from the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators, American Council on Education and AJCU spoke during the conference. This was part of the national effort made by the Campus-Based Aid Coalition (which AJCU organized) to save Perkins Loans. You can watch the press conference here on YouTube and see photos hereon Facebook.

This week, grassroots efforts to swamp Congress with “Save Perkins Loans” signage will occur, and hopefully build on our national efforts. AJCU is asking all of our Jesuit institutions to weigh in with their Members and Senators to save this vital loan program for both undergraduate and graduate students. Jesuit institutions realize a total of $45.5 million from the Federal government for Perkins Loans, which served 18,000 students in the 2013-14 academic year.

Beyond extending the Perkins Loan Program, saving all of the campus-based aid programs, including the Supplemental Education Opportunity Grant program (SEOG), is a key priority for AJCU. Serving the poor and collaborating on social justice issues are key to the Jesuit mission. Yet, there is a growing desire to “simplify Federal student aid.” In the case of the Perkins Loan Program and SEOG, simplifying equals elimination. It would be a tragedy to take away successful access programs for our nation’s poorest students.

HEA is also going to present challenges to finding solutions to emerging sexual assault cases on our nation’s campuses. Early preparation, awareness and fine tuning the campus judiciary proceedings are part of the current discussions. We also expect that the Clery Act on Campus Safety will be amended in this process.

Higher education has always relied on the excellent reputation of the accrediting process as providing checks and balances for accountability. Yet, this HEA cycle may try to take more draconian measures to eliminate the regional status of accreditation.

AJCU will be there every step of the way during HEA reauthorization, and will analyze these issues with our Federal Relations Network during the annual AJCU Federal Relations Conference in Washington, D.C. on October 7th and 8th.

Scott S. Fleming, Associate Vice President for Federal Relations, Georgetown University

In 1972, the Higher Education Act (HEA) Reauthorization established two important financial aid programs that have created opportunities for millions of American students over the last 43 years: Pell Grants and Supplemental Education Opportunity Grants (SEOG). SEOG, one of the campus-based aid programs, has been a vital complement to Pell in enabling institutions to put together financial aid packages for students with the highest demonstrated need. And, as is true with other campus-based aid programs, this Federal funding is matched with at least 25% in institutional funds. At many Jesuit institutions, the institutional match is considerably in excess of the requirement.

During the 2013-14 academic year, over three hundred Georgetown University undergraduate students received SEOG funding in their financial aid packages with awards totaling $1,738,673. All of those students benefiting from SEOG on our campus are Pell Grant recipients as well. Among all 28 Jesuit colleges and universities across the nation, nearly 13,000 students received SEOG funding that year, totaling nearly $20 million. Nationally, about $735,000,000 in Federal funding, amplified by at least $230 million in institutional matching funds, were included in financial aid packages for over 1.2 million students on over 3,700 campuses.

There is considerable discussion on Capitol Hill today, as work is underway on another HEA Reauthorization, on making financial aid “simpler.” That includes simplifying the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form to remove barriers to students applying for aid. But another aspect of the “simplification” effort would revamp Federal student aid programs to end up with just “one loan, one grant.”

Simplification might sound good, but to get to “one loan, one grant,” SEOG and Perkins Loans, another campus-based aid program, would be eliminated. These particular programs and the flexibility they provide financial aid offices are essential to addressing the kinds of real life circumstances – family job loss, illness or death of a parent or sibling – that, without a little extra help, can destroy a young person’s educational aspirations. At the end of the day, for those nearly 13,000 students on Jesuit campuses across the country, “one loan, one grant” would mean less Federal grant aid, for some as much as $4,000 a year.

But enough statistics. I look at programs like SEOG from the perspective of real students whose lives are changed by financial aid. Young people, over 300 here at Georgetown in 2013-14, whose ability to be students here is made possible, in part, because of SEOG. Let me share just two of their stories with you.

Diondra Hicks (left) graduated from Georgetown this past May with a degree in psychology and a GPA over 3.5. Diondragrew up in Georgia, raised by a hard-working, caring single mother. There were financial ups and downs along the way. Her mother lost her job as the economy went into recession, and it was a full two years before she was hired to be a high school business technology teacher in the Atlanta Public Schools. Family fortunes meant the family moved frequently, and Diondra moved from school to school. That wasn’t easy, but Diondragraduated fifth in her class from North Atlanta High School with an International Baccalaureate degree.

Diondra knew she wanted to go to college, and she was lucky to have two former high school counselors who helped her on college applications. Since her mother’s income left little to contribute to her college costs, Diondra’s counselors encouraged her to apply to Georgetown and other schools with strong financial aid policies. She was admitted to Georgetown’s College of Arts and Sciences with an aid package that included SEOG as well as Pell, a generous Georgetown Scholarship, and a Federal Work Study job. She is a serious person who works hard. She held the same Work Study job all four years at Georgetown while being actively involved in the Black Student Alliance and serving as a mentor to students at a high school near the Georgetown campus.

Since graduation, Diondra is gaining new experience with a law firm in Washington, DC and keeping her eye on a career that will let her effectively advocate for children and families in high need, at-risk communities.

While Diondra has moved on to pursue her dreams, Jason Low (right) is starting his sophomore year here at Georgetown. Jason’s parents immigrated to Richmond, California from China in 1995. A few years later, when Jason was only five, his father passed away, leaving Jason’s mother who works very hard, but does not speak English, to raise her only child. His father’s death and his mother’s lack of English skills forced Jason to grow up very fast and to help his mother navigate life in the United States. His ability to speak English was critical. At one point, his mother received a letter summoning her to jury duty. She first thought it was a summons to be put on trial, but Jason was able to clear that up and convince the court that his mother, who couldn’t speak English, could not serve effectively on a jury.

It didn’t take long for Jason to grasp the importance of education, and he was determined to make school a place where he truly belonged. In elementary school, he volunteered in the school office, and later came back to do so while in middle school and high school. To ensure his future academic success, Jason joined an after-school program that offered tutoring, study skills and encouragement to plan for college. All of that work and commitment paid off and on the Georgetown campus, Jason is already giving back, working as a financial aid peer counselor and a Georgetown Scholarship Program Board Member helping students acclimate and succeed on our campus. He is also working to connect students of diverse backgrounds through the Students of Color Alliance. This summer, with University support, he interned for the Information Security Oversight Office working on the largest information management and security reform in over 20 years, and next spring, he will study abroad in Lyon, France. Like Diondra, his college dream relies on extensive financial aid including SEOG.

For young people across the country, like Diondra and Jason, we need to work to ensure that Federal financial aid programs like SEOG are not eliminated, so that their educational options are not limited by family circumstance or derailed by a family tragedy. These programs make an investment in their futures and what that can mean for us all.

Above: Photos of Diondra Hicks and Jason Low courtesy of Georgetown University.

By Linda LeMura, Ph.D., President of Le Moyne College


Among the most critical components of President Lyndon Johnson’s domestic policy agenda, widely known to most Americans as the Great Society, was the Higher Education Act (HEA) of 1965. The aim of this ambitious piece of legislation was to strengthen the country by bolstering one of its most precious resources: its colleges and universities. It increased the funding available to institutions of higher education and provided students with the financial assistance many needed to pursue a degree. The HEA contained numerous provisions, including those to aid developing institutions, improve the quality of instruction, and provide students with scholarships, low-interest loans, and work-study opportunities. It was a profound expression of faith in the power of higher education and its unparalleled capacity to shape our collective future.

Since the HEA was signed into law 50 years ago, it has been reauthorized nine times. The members of the U.S. House and Senate are in the midst of doing so again. The HEA remains today, as it was at its founding, vital to our nation’s security and prosperity. Our world is changing rapidly, and the need for sustained, innovative and agile thinking—just as the need to invest in higher educationhas never been more pronounced than it is today. Pope Francis has weighed in on the pivotal role education plays in our well-being, remarking, “…We are living in an information-driven society which bombards us indiscriminately with dataall treated as being of equal importanceand which leads to remarkable superficiality in the area of moral discernment. In response, we need to provide an education which teaches critical thinking and encourages the development of mature moral values.”

At Jesuit colleges and universities, we take pride in forming young men and women who are not just successful professionals, but who are also intelligent, creative and compassionate global citizens. That is our imprimatur. It guides us in each and every thing we do. We accept this awesome responsibility because of our deep conviction that our world urgently needs the kind of students we prepare, people who are both servants and leaders. The great joy in our work stems from the fact that there is no telling how far these young people can go and what they can accomplish if simply given the opportunity to avail themselves of a Jesuit education.

We also recognize that, for the overwhelming majority of American families, a college education is a very serious investment. Resources are finite. It has long been a tenet at Le Moyne College – and at our 27 sister schools around the United States – that no student should be denied the benefit of a Jesuit education simply because he or she cannot afford it. During the 2014-15 academic year, Le Moyne committed approximately $37 million, or about one-third of our overall budget, to financial aid. That helped approximately 93 percent of our students fund their educations. This strategic investment has enabled us to build a campus community that is rich in diversity, and which reflects the world into which our students will graduate. We are not alone in making these investments. During the 2012-13 academic year, 60 percent of all need-based aid at Jesuit institutions came from institutional grants and scholarships, and totaled $1.2 billion.

We are proud of these investments, and rightly so. However, the sobering reality is that they are often not enough. Many of our students rely on additional support, in particular Federal Pell Grants, which are based on family income and funded through the HEA. During the 2014-15 academic year, 919 Le Moyne students, or approximately 32 percent of our undergraduates, received Pell Grants totaling $3.8 million to aid them in financing their educations. Of those, 369 received the maximum amount allowed by the government. Without those funds, many of those low-income students would have been forced to borrow more money to finance their educations, increase their work hours during the academic year to levels that leave insufficient time for their studies or, most devastatingly, leave the College without their degrees.

Providing students with a quality, affordable education is a major part of our mission. The Pell Grant program plays a key role in helping us to reach that aim. It is also extraordinarily successful. Of those students who entered U.S. colleges and universities for the first time in the Fall of 2006, only about half, 54.1 percent, graduated within six years. By comparison, 70.8 percent of Pell Grant recipients who enrolled in Jesuit colleges at that time graduated within six years.

During my inaugural address in March, I shared my belief that “a Jesuit education is not meant to be a luxury, or the capstone to a life of leisure.“ Rather, it is intended to be “the armor that will allow all studentsfrom all backgrounds and meansto thrive in a sometimes dangerous, always challenging world.” It is part of our commitment to social justice to provide a high-quality education to students of limited means. Years before President Johnson signed the HEA into law, his predecessor, President John F. Kennedy, said this: “The goal of education is the advancement of knowledge and the dissemination of truth.”

What cause is nobler, or investment more worthy?

By Julie Schumacher Cohen & Kathryn Yerkes, The University of Scranton

Efforts by Federal and state policy makers and regulators to encourage access, affordability, transparency and quality in higher education align with our Catholic and Jesuit mission, and matter greatly to our students. At the same time, Federal regulation has expanded in ways that, according to the bi-partisan Congressional Task Force on Federal Regulation of Higher Education, “…undermine the ability of colleges and universities to serve students and accomplish their missions.”

As we look to the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA) this Fall, it is important that Jesuit colleges and universities be prepared to determine where to share our concerns and when to lend our support in the legislative process.

Student Aid on the Chopping Block?

Student aid will be a major theme in the debates around HEA this fall. How will campus-based aid programs and Pell grants fare? Interest rates on student loans, in-school subsidies and the fate of programs such as income-based repayment plans should also be front and center.

Institutional grants and scholarships remain the largest source of need-based aid at our Jesuit institutions. Federal assistance, however, plays a significant role through Pell Grants as well as the three campus-based aid programs: Perkins Loans, Federal Work Study (FWS) and the Supplemental Education Opportunity Grant (SEOG). Together, these programs provided $138,738,823 in grants to students enrolled at AJCU schools in 2013-14.

Pell Grants rightly deserve to be our advocacy priority. Congressional measures this past year attempted to freeze Pell Grants at the current maximum award and eliminate billions in mandatory funding. As we know, Pell grants serve the students most in need on our campuses. At the University of Scranton in 2013-14, 815 students, representing 19% of our undergraduate student body, received Pell grants amounting to more than $3 million in funding.

To serve our students well, campus-based aid programs must also be preserved. At Scranton, we are particularly concerned about the potential loss of the Perkins Loan program, which is set to begin expiration on Sept. 30th. Scranton’s Director of Financial Aid, William Burke, explained, “These programs give financial aid offices the flexibility to help students fill the cost gap and allow them to step in with additional aid when crises arise.”

Simplification of Aid Program Regulations

“Simplification” is sure to be a buzz-word this fall, and we share common ground with many legislators who seek to streamline the labyrinth of student aid program regulations. Changes to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form are sorely needed. Our Financial Aid office supports recommendations by the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA), including a process that would require low-income students to answer fewer questions than wealthier ones and the use of “prior-prior year” income data to determine aid eligibility.

Accreditation: A Gatekeeper for Access

Another topic on the radar for Federal higher education legislators is regional accreditation, which serves as a “gatekeeper” for access to Federal financial aid under Title IV of HEA.

Scranton is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE). Regional accreditation processes are intense and particularly focused on ensuring that institutions are amply demonstrating successful student outcomes. Nevertheless, legislators have voiced concerns that accreditors are not doing enough to ensure institutional quality and have suggested possible changes to the regional accreditation system. The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP), chaired by Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, floated a white paper this past spring that suggested the possibility of decoupling it from Federal financial aid. In short, the HEA reauthorization process may have significant implications for the accreditation process, in particular, its role and scope in higher education policy.

Best Practices for HEA Compliance and Advocacy

Now is a good time to consolidate internal campus organization on policy issues and to tap the know-how of national advocacy bodies. Scranton recently re-charged as a standing committee, a Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA) Compliance Committee. First established following reauthorization in 2008, the committee will lead our implementation of any new regulations or requirements. The group will also monitor HEOA reporting needs and coordinate institutional strategy for state authorizations of distance education.

The Committee is also joining forces with another campus group, the recently formed Government Issues and Policy Committee, comprised of a wide range of stakeholders and tasked with prioritizing key state and Federal policy issues for the University.

Together, these two groups will monitor the HEA reauthorization process and will look to the AJCU Federal Relations Network, a “best practice” in its own right, to provide guidance on effective advocacy.

Keeping Our Eye on the Prize: Transformational College Value

As we write, Obama Administration officials have just released their long-awaited rating system, an updated “College Scorecard.” A number of higher education leaders, interest groups, scholars and many in Congress have shared concerns about this system. In a positive shift, it does not include an actual scoring system or single rating; yet, its unveiling reinforces what many of us experience to be a new status quo of heightened regulation across the higher education landscape.

The University of Scranton’s President, Rev. Kevin P. Quinn S.J., wrote to the Obama Administration in February, noting the proposed system’s inability to capture fully what is “special about Scranton or about the many other colleges and universities that have helped young men and women open their minds, search their souls, and become thoughtful, caring and compassionate citizens.” In its own opposition, AJCU has noted that tracking alumni salaries after graduation, a key element of the new scorecard update, does not properly demonstrate the value of a college degree. Moreover, the American Council on Education, in a response to the Senate HELP committee’s white paper on accreditation, has stressed how difficult it is “to measure the intangible benefits of higher education (such as civic engagement, leadership, ethical behavior, commitment to lifelong learning, open-mindedness, religious values and practice, and community service).”

In the coming months, as the scorecard is fully analyzed and debates around higher education regulation intensify, we must continue to communicate individually and collectively the unique value of the transformational learning experience that Jesuit higher education bestows upon our students.

Note: This article was written prior to the release of the new rating system, an update to the “College Scorecard.” Consistent with what we noted above, the system does not include an actual score or rating and does put a focus on post-graduation salaries without the context of students’ varied professions. As AJCU wrote earlier this year: “Many of our alumni work for national and international social justice programs like the Peace Corps, Teach for America and Jesuit Volunteer Corps.” The impact of the new scorecard will be more fully analyzed and understood in the days and months ahead.

Julie Schumacher Cohen (above right) is the Director of Community and Government Relations at the University of Scranton. Kathryn Yerkes (above left) serves the University as Assistant Vice Provost for Planning & Institutional Effectiveness.

The Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities (AJCU) sponsors over 30 conferences (affinity groups) within the AJCU Network. The conferences provide a forum for the exchange of ideas, information and best practices; support the professional development of their members; and present opportunities for AJCU representatives to discuss collaboration and challenges in Jesuit higher education. Most of the AJCU conferences host meetings at least once a year, and many of them facilitate regular communication among members through AJCU listservs. The following conferences and AJCU-affiliated programs will meet in Fall 2015:

National Seminar on Jesuit Higher Education
September 17-19, 2015, Loyola University Chicago
Chair: Rev. Patrick Howell, S.J., Seattle University
(206) 437-4537,

Education Deans Conference
September 24-25, 2015, Fairfield University
President: Joshua Smith, Loyola University Maryland
(410) 617-5310,

Institutional Planning, Research & Assessment
October 1-2, 2015, University of San Francisco
Chair: Bill Murry, University of San Francisco
(415) 422-5486,

Higher Education Rectors’ Organization (HERO)
October 2-4, 2015, University of Detroit Mercy
Chair: Rev. Michael Zampelli, S.J., Santa Clara University
(408) 554-2175,

AJCU Federal Relations Conference
October 7-8, 2015, Washington, D.C.
Contact: Cyndy Littlefield, AJCU
(202) 862-9893,

Jesuit Graduate Admission Professionals (JGAP)
October 7-9, 2015, Saint Louis University
President: Linda Horisk, Fordham University
(212) 636-6401,

Chief Academic Officers
October 8-10, 2015, Regis University
Chair: Dr. Stephen Freedman, Fordham University
(718) 817-3043,

Arts & Sciences Deans
October 8-10, 2015, Seattle University
Chair: Dr. David Powers, Seattle University
(206) 296-5300,

Philosophers in Jesuit Education (PJE)
October 8-11, 2015, Boston Park Plaza Hotel, Boston, MA*
President: Eleonore Stump, Saint Louis University
(314) 977-3158,

Business Deans
October 11-13, 2015, Xavier University
Chair: Dr. Brian Till, Marquette University
(414) 288-7141,

Alpha Sigma Nu (ASN) Triennial
October 15-18, 2015, Marquette University
Contact: Kate Gaertner, ASN
(414) 288-7542,

Human Resources
October 20-23, 2015, Marquette University
Chair: Lynn Mellantine, Marquette University
(414) 288-3430,

Deans of Adult & Continuing Education (DACE)
October 21-23, 2015, Gonzaga University
President: Dr. Michael R. Carey, Gonzaga University
(509) 313-3550,

AJCU Board of Directors Meeting
October 26-28, 2015, Washington, D.C.
Contact: Patrick Nolan, AJCU
(202) 862-9893,

International Education
November 3-6, 2015, UCA, Managua, Nicaragua
Chair: Debbie Danna, Loyola Univ. New Orleans
(504) 864-7550,

Mission & Identity
November 4-6, 2015, Boston College
Co-Chair: Joe Orlando, Seattle University
(206) 296-5917,

Jesuit Student Personnel Administrators (JASPA)
November 4-6, 2015, Loyola Marymount University
President: Jeffrey Gray, Fordham University
(718) 817-4752,

*This meeting will take place during the annual American Catholic Philosophical Association Meeting.

Please note: This list is subject to change. Please check the AJCU conference webpages for more information.