A Summary of ISFAA History

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Who Are We?
by Sue Allmon, ISFAA President, 1996-97

Our state Association, now known as the Indiana Student Financial Aid Association, had its humble beginnings in 1935. In fact, our start up was in response to government action and a circling of the wagons! In 1935, the Indiana General Assembly passed legislation that mandated that fee remission awards be made to students on the basis of competitive testing. In search of fairness and continuity and perhaps a touch of wanting to keep "big brother" government at a distance, the four state universities agreed to complete the testing required for these fee remission awards. Credit goes to Hermann Remmer of Purdue University for convincing the other three state institutions to coordinate and create a general test to be used by all. Thus, the humble beginnings of our state association – our wanting to be fair and treat all students equally as well as attempting to keep big government out of the formula.

The Association continued conducting the state’s test and assisting students with their funding questions. In the 1940’s, our state Association, through its membership, was instrumental in the creation of what we now know as the "Financial Aid Office". Prior to this separation, financial aid was a stepchild of student services. It was during the 1940’s that the financial aid function was recognized as an individual office and her functions were separated from those of the admission’s and registrar’s offices.

Until now, the Association consisted of the state-supported institutions. Private colleges and universities, sensing a good thing, began to clamor that they be allowed to join. In 1952, the state schools were swayed and invited the private colleges and universities to join the Association.

As the Association grew, a structure was needed to maintain order. In 1955, the Association established the Executive and Advising Boards, populated by the state institutions. In 1957, the Association added four private colleges to the Board and began work on its constitution. Knowing the diversity of the group (take a look around the Association today if you need a visual), the forming of a constitution was no easy task. The first constitution was considered, reviewed, and revised many times before finally passing the membership in 1960. Due to the nature of the financial aid business and the personalities of those involved, the Association’s constitution was rewritten several times until the early 1980’s, when some far-sighted individuals convinced the Association to switch from a constitution based organization to one of by-laws. This switch enabled the Association to make more immediate updates to our policies as warranted by the climate of the times.

Not only was the Association involved in evolving herself into an organization of greater needs, but also she was instrumental in creating the world around her. In 1957, a formal needs analysis – the CSS (College Scholarship Service) system – was adopted by several Indiana colleges. We were also instrumental in the creation of two additional financial aid groups that are still with us today – MASFAA and USAGroup. In 1962, Purdue University hosted the BigTen – BigEight group and MASFAA was founded out of that meeting. Also, USAGroup was nurtured by our Association in its early years.

When not creating organizations, the Association kept busy assisting in the creation of government programs and training opportunities. Several association members had their hands in the shaping of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (the original bill, not just the amendments). In fact, Senator Vance Hartke of Indiana was a co-sponsor of the Higher Education Act of 1965. We were also, at the time, active in the drafting and passage of the State Scholarship Act of Indiana in 1965, which led to the creation of our good colleague SSACI.

Knowing that financial aid was a business and a rather involved one, the Association created training programs to teach each other the ways and means of financial assistance. This fundamentals workshop was developed by and hosted by Indiana University. For the first two years it was co-sponsored by CSS and IU. CSS withdrew from the project but IU kept it going. It was a great success over the years and other associations wanted to copy it. In 1969, Edson Sample, Indiana University, Bloomington and, at the time, MASFAA President, offered to allow MASFAA to sponsor this workshop and thus was born the week long MASFAA Fundamental Workshop that many of us have attended over the years.

Some of you may have noticed that I have refrained from calling us "ISFAA" throughout the article, but rather refer to us as the "Association". No, I haven’t forgotten who we are, but wanted to demonstrate that our identity has been evolving. During that evolution, we have seen six name changes for the Association. A chronological listing of those names would show:

1930 – State High School Testing Committee

1950 – State Scholarship Committee

1955 – Indiana Scholarship Testing Program

1957 – Scholarship Testing Program of Indiana Colleges & Universities

1961 – Scholarship Association of Indiana Colleges & Universities

1967 – Indiana Student Financial Aid Association (ISFAA)

So there you have it, a down and dirty review of who we are. What we were then and what we are now is:

  • A professional association
  • A forum for the exchange of ideas
  • A support group
  • A vehicle for communication with other groups and the public at large

This author gratefully acknowledges the work and resources of Josephine Ferguson in putting this article together. For those of you who crave more details, I would recommend reading ISFAA: Creating a Proud Tradition 1935-1985 by Josephine Ferguson.