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The Jersey shore. ~ We all probably have some fond memories of times spent with family and friends along its sandy beaches and boardwalks. On June 9th and 10th, the newly elected Executive Council members spent time there getting to know more about ourselves and each other by taking the Myers-Briggs Inventory Test. We put our thoughts together to craft budgets that will support training sessions, as well as the annual Conference and Committees that will assist the State’s financial aid administrators become better prepared to serve our students, their families and a large network of guidance counselors. We debated ideas, proposed training initiatives and decided that it was time for NJASFAA to develop an expanded presence on the web, which will include a Facebook page. Today, the NJASFAA Executive Council, Felicia Bryant and I invite you to visit that page. Follow our schedule of events. View and like the photos that will appear of your colleagues and you.

NJASFAA is comprised of a diverse group of individuals that represent many sectors; a growing professional family which values the expertise of long standing Council members like Ninfa Mueller, Doug Wilson and Ed Gonzalez. We are moving forward with the steady support of our Past President, Cynthia Montalvo, our current President, Wil Casaine and the President-Elect, Tammi Hussey, as well as the stewardship of Mike Livio, Joanna Cellary and Catherine Boscher–Murphy, a NJASFAA legend, who was unable to be there for the photo op, but keeps us moving in the right direction. The 2016/17 year is sure to be full of challenges, opportunities and upheaval with PPY, new filing deadlines dates for the State programs, more PJs, and SULA. Stay tuned for training sessions, an exciting conference and plenty of networking opportunities. See you on FB!

Mike Bennett’s Memories of Joe

This weekend we learned of the passing of Joe Roberto. Michael Bennett’s memories of Joe were shared on the NJASFAA listserv this morning. They describe the Joe Roberto many remember. Here are his recollections:

Like many of my financial aid colleagues and friends, I became numb at the news of Joe’s passing and cannot imagine a world without Joe in it. Joe was larger the life, a big part of conference success and enjoyment (NJASFAA, EASFAA, NASFAA) and touched everyone he met. Below are some thoughts on Joe.

Joe was an AMAZING story teller

Joe filled every room he ever walked into. I also enjoyed the look on someone’s face when they first met Joe and as he roared a story. Eyes would be blinking and darting, feet would be shifting and they would be thinking this simply can’t be true!

Joe was “The Most Interesting Man in the World” before the guy on the Dos Equis commercials.

I like to believe EVERYONE of Joe’s stories were 100% accurate.

Joe was “Mr. Financial Aid” (period)!

Joe has done more high school financial aid presentations that Mc Donald’s has sold hamburgers. (and I know Dave Sheridan will pick up the 1,000 FA presentations scheduled for this Spring. One of my favorite written pieces by Joe was written in March 2003.  Joe Roberto’s – No Such Thing as a Dumb Question?

Joe was a Man of Faith

Joe was a “favorite son” of every Roman Catholic “Sister”, priest, school, parish and probably Pope Francis.

The outpouring of prayer at the news of Joe’s passing probably had Joe coming through the pearly gates in a limousine waving to St Peter mouthing “I’ll stop back later”

Joe ran Financial Aid Conferences

Joe was never wrong and there was only one way to do things – Joe’s way. If you served on a conference committee with Joe you simply “buckled up and enjoyed the ride.”  You were not to worry about ANY details, Joe had EVERYTHING under control and a vast invisible network of “friends” handling things. I LOVED every moment I would have with Joe at a conference.

Joe liked to EAT

I am proud to admit, as are many of Joe’s friends, that I ate until closing at several buffets with Joe (the more Italian food, the better).

Joe was an AMAZING gambler

I spent time with Joe in the casino and at the horse track and laughed when he said “I’m going to find you a hot slot machine” Minutes later I was asking him to help me carry my winnings to the cashier. His horse betting strategy was more complicated than Federal Methodology ..  he won 2 trifectas a day we were at the track together.

You held your breath anytime Joe had a microphone in his hand

One of my favorite Joe stories was when we had to evacuate the hotel at a NJASFAA conference. Let’s just say Sister Ann Michelle could have been better prepared to flee her room at 3 am. As I followed Sister Ann out of the building, I prayed softly for God to temporarily blind the large crowd waiting for us so they would not be traumatized by the pajamas and robe she was wearing.  Most of the crowd out of respect looked down and would not make eye contact with Sister. The next morning at breakfast, Joe walked up to the microphone and said “And the winner, for Best Dressed in a Fire Drill goes to Sister Ann Michelle!”

Joe was a wonderful gift giver

Joe and I LOVE Bruce Springsteen. One of the nicest moments I ever had was when Joe (with a full security detail) moved my son and I from the back of the stadium floor to 15th row seats and gave us the night’s song list set at a Springsteen concert at the Meadowlands. (Sing it with me “Glorrryyyyy Daaaayyyysss”).

Joe loved Donna, Nicholas, Jackie his extended family most of all

Joe leaned the most on those he loved the most. He never stopped talking about his family and brought his family to most financial aid conferences.

One thing I do know, as a father and a man. I know throughout his entire being, Joe realized he was blessed with the greatest gift of all.

The gift that gives true peace when it is time to return Home … and that gift is “Family” The greatest peace comes from knowing “My family will be my monument”

I celebrate Joe’s life and legend. I know he would want us to have the courage and the will and the strength to go on with our lives, as painful as that may be. To always remember Joe, his legendary stories, the principles he stood for, and most importantly, the deep love he had for each of us.  Joe is a “friend of mine” and a “friend of ours” and as Jersey natives, you know what that means.

Any conversation that I ever had with Joe ended with Joe saying the following words. Joe would say “If you need anything, and I mean anything, you call me.” Truer words have never been spoken and I would hope that Donna, Nick and Jackie know we now back that promise on behalf of Joe.

May the values that Joe lived and the love that he gave warm our hearts until will see him again.

Michael J. Bennett

Associate Vice President, St. Petersburg College

NJASFAA and EASFAA Past President, Past National Chair of NASFAA

Honored Friend of Joe Roberto

NJASFAA Testifies Before the College Affordability Study Commission

Hello! Welcome to spring and yet another round of freshmen awarding.  As the NJASFAA team prepares for the Spring Conference, here’s a quick update of what’s been happening.

If you were fortunate to have attended the General Session regarding college affordability at the Fall Conference you know that a lively discussion was had and ideas exchanged between, Dr. Keating, Chair of the College Affordability Study Commission, Dr. Mercer, Commission member and President of Ramapo College and NJASFAA attendees. Following that session, the NJASFAA Government Relations Committee (GRC) was pleased to receive an invitation to testify and share thoughts regarding how to improve affordability for NJ students and their families. On March 16th, Cynthia Montalvo, Wil Casaine, Stephanie Fitzsimmons and the GRC responded to that invitation and testified at the State House before the Commission. Several GRC committee members were in attendance; amongst them Mike Livio, Chair of the GRC and yours truly.

NJASFAA’s testimony highlighted the importance of continued stable funding for key programs like TAG and EOF which are the backbone of the State grant system and have played a major role in assisting NJ students to complete a degree. Also discussed were the need to streamline and simplify processing, funding for expansion of early financial aid awareness programs and increasing collaboration between the financial aid community and school counselors as early as middle school. NJASFAA also encouraged state funding for dual degree programs and year round TAG awards. Key moments of the hearing included an exchange regarding the elimination of the additional State questions that are required to determine TAG eligibility and a question regarding what one item would impact financial aid administration most. Stephanie Fitzsimmons did a phenomenal job putting in perspective for attendees and Commission members how increases in regulations over the past 40 years have changed financial aid operations for her and others who are assisting families.

As the Commission prepares to finalize its report and recommendations to the Legislature this fall, we encourage NJASFAA members to stay informed of proposals and actively participate in the legislative process.

College Affordability and Pay It Forward


Last week, Mike posed the first question that we wanted you to consider as we prepare for what, The Government Relations Committee hopes, will be an exciting conference session with members of the commission charged with studying college affordability in NJ. Following is the link to the legislation that resulted in the enactment of CASC, the College Affordability Study Commission

This week we would like you to consider some questions related to the Pay It Forward pilot program that the Commission has been charged with studying. This program “would replace the current system of charging students tuition and fees for enrollment at public institutions of higher education and allow students to instead pay back a percentage of their income for a certain number of years.” There have been several commentaries and responses published regarding these programs which have recently gained support in various State legislatures. What are your thoughts as financial aid administrators relating to the feasibility of a program such as this in NJ? What would be the best way to select students to participate in a pilot program to ensure that those who could benefit most are selected and can receive assistance to successfully complete their studies? Would this program successfully assist in reducing student loan debt and make college more affordable? How would this program impact TAG eligible students? Should the tuition and fees waived be considered a resource when calculating aid eligibility?

That’s a whole lot to consider and get you started thinking. These students will be in our offices, if the program is enacted. We need to think about the implications and provide feedback. The GRC hopes to hear from you. For instructions to respond to the NJASFAA listserv follow the link


College Affordability Study Commission Session

As you know, our Fall Conference is fast approaching. If you have not already registered, do so now!

You can register at Among the many useful sessions that will be taking place at the conference, we will have a general session entitled, “Meet the CASC: The College Affordability Study Commission” at the conference on Thursday, November 12. The CASC was set up by the New Jersey Legislature and signed into law by the Governor this past February. They have met regularly ever since, gathering information and discussing different ways to make college more affordable for students and their families. The Chair of the Commission, Dr. Frederick Keating, President of Rowan College at Gloucester County, and Dr. Peter Mercer, President of Ramapo College, have agreed to speak to us and take our feedback at a general session.


This is a valuable opportunity for NJASFAA members to help the CASC and to assist in shaping higher education-related legislation moving forward. We want to hear what you have to say about college affordability. So to get this conversation started, we are posing some questions for discussion, both here on the list-serve and on NJASFAA’s news blog NJASFAA 411. If you have not previously used the blog, please go to to register.


Our first question is about merit- vs. need-based aid. Some other states spend a higher percentage of their aid dollars on merit-based aid for in-state students. Should NJ look to expand the use of merit-based aid? Right now, the need-based NJ Tuition Aid Grant (TAG) Program is one of the most generous in the nation. In addition to this, programs like STARS and STARS II allow for valuable merit based aid for students who met certain criteria. These programs and others seem to provide excellent access to higher education. But does NJ have the right mix of need- and merit-based aid? Would changing this mix have any impact on making college more affordable in NJ?


What are your thoughts about need and merit-based aid as they relate to college affordability? Let us know here and let’s have a discussion.