Student Financial Supports

Biographies of Film Participants

Pauline Abernathy

Featured in: Growth of Federal Student Loans, How the Federal Government Distributes Aid to Students, The Other Side of the Ledger

Pauline Abernathy is Vice President of The Institute for College Access & Success (TICAS). She previously served as Senior Advisor to Philadelphia Mayor Michael A. Nutter, and as Deputy Director of Health and Human Services Policy at The Pew Charitable Trusts, where she initiated, designed and managed national initiatives related to student debt, retirement savings, child welfare, and public health policies. Prior to joining Pew, she served in senior positions at the U.S. Department of Education, where she worked on the 1998 reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA), and at the White House National Economic Council and Domestic Policy Council, where she worked on issues including student loans, Pell Grants, and higher education tax benefits. She was previously a legislative assistant to U.S. Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) and a policy analyst at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Melody Barnes

Featured in: Growth of Federal Student Loans, Building Block of Student-Based Aid, How the Federal Government Distributes Aid to Students

Melody Barnes served as Assistant to the President and Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council from 2009 to January 2012. During her tenure, Barnes was heavily involved with the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), which provided $15.6 billion for the Pell Grant program; the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act (HCERA), which eliminated the Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFEL) and fully implemented Direct Loans; and the Budget Control Act of 2011, which increased funds to the Pell Grant program. Prior to her work at the White House, Barnes served as Senior Domestic Policy Advisor to the Obama for America campaign, Executive Vice President for Policy at the Center for American Progress, and as Chief Counsel to then Senator Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA) on the Senate Judiciary Committee. Barnes began her career as an attorney in private practice in New York City.

Sandy Baum

Featured in: Growth of Federal Student Loans, Building Block of Student-Based Aid, How the Federal Government Distributes Aid to Students

Sandy Baum is a Senior Fellow at the Urban Institute and a research professor at the George Washington University Graduate School of Education and Human Development. Professor Emerita of Economics at Skidmore College, Baum has written and spoken extensively on issues relating to college access, college pricing, student aid policy, student debt, affordability, and other aspects of higher education finance. Baum has co-authored the College Board's annual publications Trends in Student Aid and Trends in College Pricing since 2002. She also co-authors Education Pays: The Benefits of Higher Education for Individuals and Society. Baum is a member of the Board of the National Student Clearinghouse and a member of the Board of Trustees at Bryn Mawr College. She is also a Senior Associate at the Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP).

David Bergeron

Featured in: Growth of Federal Student Loans, Partnering with Campuses and States, Building Block of Student-Based Aid, How the Federal Government Distributes Aid to Students

David Bergeron is the Vice President for Postsecondary Education at the Center for American Progress (CAP). For over three decades, Bergeron worked at the U.S. Department of Education in various roles including Acting Assistant Secretary for Postsecondary Education and Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy, Planning and Innovation in the Office of Postsecondary Education. During his tenure, Bergeron led policy efforts to simplify the financial aid application process and implement the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act (HCERA) that resulted in the elimination of the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) program and the transition to Federal Direct Loans. He also led the Department’s regulatory efforts on a wide variety of issues including student loans, Academic Competitiveness, and National SMART and TEACH Grants. Bergeron played a key leadership role in the 1998 and 2008 reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA).

James Bergeron

Featured in: How the Federal Government Distributes Aid to Students

James P. Bergeron currently serves as President of the National Council of Higher Education Resources (NCHER), which represents a nationwide network of lenders, secondary markets, guaranty agencies, loan servicers, private collection agencies, schools, and others that assist students, borrowers, parents, and families access, manage, and pay for the costs of postsecondary education. Prior to joining NCHER, James worked as the Director of Education and Human Services Policy for the House Committee on Education and the Workforce. In this capacity, he oversaw policy development on all areas of education and human services programs including the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act and other federal laws governing elementary, secondary, and postsecondary education. Before joining the Committee in 2006, James served as Legislative Director in Rep. Buck McKeon’s (R-CA) personal office where he authored important legislative initiatives on college affordability and financial aid simplification. James began his Capitol Hill service almost 20 years ago as a Legislative Assistant to Rep. Bob Livingston (R-LA), who chaired the House Appropriations Committee.

Kristin Conklin

Featured in: Partnering with Campuses and States, Building Block of Student-Based Aid, How the Federal Government Distributes Aid to Students

Kristin Conklin is a founding Partner of HCM Strategists, a public policy and advocacy firm. Her financial aid work on behalf of clients includes helping release and promote a dialogue about the College Board's 2008 and 2012 Rethinking Student Aid Reports, supporting states' financial aid policy development, and leading the American Dream 2.0 coalition. Previously, she served as Senior Advisor to the Undersecretary of Education at the U.S. Department of Education where she helped develop the Secretary’s action plan in response to the Spellings Commission report, including an increase to the Pell grant program. Prior to that she served as Program Director in the education division of the National Governors Association, and Director of the Washington, D.C., office of the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education.

John Dean

Featured in: Growth of Federal Student Loans

John Dean is a Principal in the public affairs firm of Washington Partners, LLC where he specializes in federal higher education programs and financial services. He also serves as Chair of the KnowledgeWorks Foundation, a social enterprise focused on creating sustainable improvement in student readiness for college and careers. Dean previously served as the director and two-term board president of the National College Access Network (NCAN). Prior to entering private practice, Dean served in various roles at the U.S. House Education and Labor Committee including Associate Counsel under Ranking Member John Erlenborn (R-IL). From 1979 until 1985, Dean focused on budget and appropriations issues through the 1980 Higher Education Act (HEA) Reauthorization and Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1981.

Jason Delisle

Featured in: The Other Side of the Ledger

Jason Delisle is the Director for the Federal Education Budget Project at New America, where he focuses on improving the quality of public information on federal funding for education and helps support well-targeted federal education policies. Previously, he served as a Senior Analyst on the Republican staff of the U.S. Senate Budget Committee. Prior to his time with the Senate Budget Committee, Delisle served as a Legislative Aide from 2000 through 2006 in the office of Representative Thomas Petri (R-WI).

David Evans

Featured in: Growth of Federal Student Loans, Building Block of Student-Based Aid, How the Federal Government Distributes Aid to Students

For more than twenty years, David Evans played a key role in educational policymaking at the federal level. From 1978 through 1996, Evans worked on the U. S. Senate Subcommittee on Education, Arts, and Humanities, and was Staff Director for most of that period. The Subcommittee had jurisdiction over the authorization of federal education laws in elementary, secondary, vocational, adult and higher education. Evans worked directly for U.S. Senator Claiborne Pell (D-RI). From 1997 into 1998, he was Legislative Associate on the U. S. House Subcommittee on Postsecondary Education where he worked directly for Congressman Dale E. Kildee (D-MI). During his time on Capitol Hill, Evans worked closely on the 1986, 1992, and 1998 Higher Education Act (HEA) Reauthorization and is known as an expert on the Pell Grant program.

Brian Fitzgerald

Featured in: Building Block of Student-Based Aid, Partnering with Campuses and States, How the Federal Government Distributes Aid to Students, The Other Side of the Ledger

Brian Fitzgerald is the current Chief Executive Officer of Business-Higher Education Forum (BHEF), the nation’s oldest membership organization of prominent college and university presidents, Fortune 500 CEOs, and other leaders dedicated to advancing innovative education and workforce solutions. Prior to joining BHEF, Fitzgerald was the first Staff Director of the Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance (ACSFA). During his tenure from 1988 until 2005, ACSFA conducted analysis on the financial aid application process, and in 1992, delivered recommendations to Congress on simplifying the process for students. He previously served as an Adjunct Associate Professor of Government at American University.

Sarah Flanagan

Featured in: Growth of Federal Student Loans, Partnering with Campuses and States, Building Block of Student-Based Aid, How the Federal Government Distributes Aid to Students

Sarah Flanagan was appointed Vice President for Government Relations and Policy at the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU) in 1994. From 1987 through 1993, Flanagan was the Professional Staff member responsible for federal student aid programs on the Senate Subcommittee on Education, Arts and Humanities chaired by Senator Claiborne Pell (D-RI). In this role, Flanagan was highly involved with the 1990 Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, Federal Credit Reform Act of 1990, and the 1992 Higher Education Act (HEA) Reauthorization, among other higher education bills. Flanagan also served as Staff Director of the Senate Subcommittee on Children, Family, Drugs and Alcoholism under Senator Christopher Dodd (D-CT).

Gaby Gomez

Featured in: The Other Side of the Ledger

Gaby Gomez is the Deputy Director of Postsecondary Policy and Advocacy at the Gates Foundation, where she lead’s a team that is responsible for developing and executing strategies to support the scaling and sustainability of the foundation’s work on the Postsecondary Success agenda. Previously, Gomez led the Office of Legislation and Congressional Affairs at the U.S. Department of Education and also served as the Acting Assistant Secretary from 2009 through 2014, where she was in charge of the budget and all policy efforts. Prior to her time at the Department of Education, Gomez was the lead Higher Education Policy Advisor for Chairman George Miller (D-CA) on the U.S. House of Representative’s Committee for Education and Labor and also served as a Legislative Assistant for Representative Ciro Rodriguez (D-TX).

Susan Hattan

Featured in: How the Federal Government Distributes Aid to Students

Since 2003, Susan Hattan has been the senior consultant at the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU). She is responsible for policy development and oversight on accountability matters, including consumer information and reporting requirements, accreditation, student privacy, and institutional eligibility and certification. Before joining NAICU in a full-time capacity, Hattan served as a consultant to the association in preparation for reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. She retired from the federal government in 2001 after a 27-year career in the U.S. Senate, where she served on the staff of Senator Nancy Kassebaum (R-KS) for 18 years. Hattan was staff director of the Labor and Human Resources Committee during Kassebaum's tenure as chair. When Kassebaum retired in 1997, Hattan became deputy staff director for Senator Jim Jeffords (I-VT). She also worked for Senator Bob Dole (R-KS) from 1973 to 1977.

Frank Holleman

Featured in: The Other Side of the Ledger

Frank Holleman has served in several roles in both law and education throughout his career. In 1994, he was appointed by President Bill Clinton to serve as Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Justice Department. Following his time at the Justice Department, Holleman was the Chief of Staff for Secretary of Education Richard Riley from 1994 until 1997. Later in 1997, Riley appointed Holleman to the Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance. Holleman also served as the Deputy Secretary of Education beginning in 1999 until the end of Clinton’s presidency.

Douglas Holtz-Eakin

Featured in: The Other Side of the Ledger

Douglas Holtz-Eakin is the President of the American Action Forum and was recently a Commissioner on the Congressionally-chartered Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission (FCIC) from 2009 until 2012. Holtz-Eakin also served as the Director of Domestic and Economic Policy for John McCain’s presidential campaign. Prior to his time working for McCain’s campaign, he was the Director of the Congressional Budget Office, which provides budgetary and policy analysis to Congress. During his tenure, he helped to address several issues including the 2003 tax cuts and Social Security reform. From 2001 until 2002, Holtz-Eakin served as the Chief Economist of the President’s Council of Economic Advisors where he focused on forming policies to address the 2000-2001 recession and the aftermath of September 11th. His areas of research include applied economic policy, econometric methods, and entrepreneurship.

Richard Jerue

Featured in: Growth of Federal Student Loans, Building Block of Student-Based Aid

Richard Jerue was the founding President of the Art Institute of Charleston, and as a Congressional staff member spearheaded both the U.S. Senate and House higher education policy efforts. Jerue was the Staff Director and Counsel to the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Education, Arts and Humanities under Senator Claiborne Pell (D-RI) from 1976 until 1981. He then became the Executive Director of the National Commission on Student Financial Assistance and later, the Vice President of Government Relations at the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU). From 1988 through 1994, Jerue worked as Staff Director and Counsel for the U.S. House Subcommittee on Postsecondary Education under Representative Pat Williams (D-MT). During his career on Capitol Hill, Jerue was involved with the 1976, 1980 and 1992 Higher Education Act (HEA) Reauthorization; Middle Income Student Assistance Act (MISAA) of 1978; Federal Credit Reform Act of 1990; and Student Loan Reform Act of 1993.

Karin Johns

Featured in: The Other Side of the Ledger

Karin Johns is the Director of Tax Policy at the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU), a position she has held since 1998. She is responsible for developing legislative strategies and representing NAICU on tax policy issues before Congress and the broader higher education community. Previously, Johns was the Legislative Director for Representative Phil English (R-PA) where she oversaw Ways and Means Committee issues like tax policy, human resources, health care, Social Security and trade. From 1990 through 1994 she worked for Representative Fred Grandy (R-IA).

David Longanecker

Featured in: Growth of Federal Student Loans, Partnering with Campuses and States, Building Block of Student-Based Aid

David Longanecker is the President of the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE) in Boulder, Colorado. Previously, he served for six years as the Assistant Secretary for Postsecondary Education at the U.S. Department of Education, developing and implementing national policy and programs that provided more than $40 billion annually in student aid and $1 billion to institutions. Prior to his work at the Department, Longanecker was the state higher education executive officer in Colorado and Minnesota. He was also the principal analyst for higher education at the Congressional Budget Office. Longanecker has served on numerous boards and commissions and was President of the State Higher Education Executive Officers (SHEEO).

Daniel Madzelan

Featured in: Growth of Federal Student Loans, How the Federal Government Distributes Aid to Students

Daniel Madzelan is the Associate Vice President for Government Relations at the American Council on Education (ACE). In 1978, Madzelan began a 33 year career with the U.S. Department of Education where he held various positions including Acting Assistant Secretary for Postsecondary Education. In this capacity, he was responsible for the oversight of an annual program budget of nearly $3 billion allocated via grant funding largely to colleges and universities. He also had policy responsibility for the student financial assistance programs that provided $145 billion in grant, work-study, and loan assistance to 14 million postsecondary education students and their families.

Dallas Martin

Featured in: Partnering with Campuses and States, Building Block of Student-Based Aid, How the Federal Government Distributes Aid to Students

Dallas Martin served as President of the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA) from 1975 through 2007, where he acted as NASFAA's primary liaison to the U.S. Congress, the Executive Branch, the U.S. Department of Education, and other governmental and non-governmental entities. Prior to joining NASFAA, Martin served as Director of Program Planning and Administration for the Division of Student Assistance Programs with the American College Testing (ACT) program. He joined ACT after serving for a number of years as a college and university administrator and educator. Martin was Associate Dean of Student Services at the University of Northern Colorado from 1972 to 1974, after having served as Associate Director of Student Financial Aid and as an Assistant Professor of College Student Personnel. Martin received a NASFAA Lifetime Membership Award in 2007.

Maureen McLaughlin

Featured in: The Other Side of the Ledger

Maureen McLaughlin is a Senior Advisor to the Secretary of Education and the Director of International Affairs at the Department of Education. Prior to her time at the Department of Education, McLaughlin spent 8 years at the World Bank as the Lead Education Specialist and Education Sector Manager. McLaughlin has also served as the Acting Assistant Secretary for Postsecondary Education both in 1993 and 2001. From 1993 through 2002, she was the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy, Planning and Innovation. Prior to that, McLaughlin was the Director of the Postsecondary Education Division in the Planning and Evaluation Service for 5 years. Throughout her career, she has been a leader in shaping and implementing several key policy initiatives such as student loan default reduction efforts, the creation of direct student loans and income contingent repayment, the creation of GEAR-UP and the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act.

Frank Mensel

Featured in: Building Block of Student-Based Aid

Frank Mensel is the former Vice President for Federal Relations and Congressional Relations for the Association of Community and Junior Colleges (now the American Association of Community Colleges). During his tenure at AACC, Mensel led the support among community colleges for Pell Grants during the 1972 enactment. For more than a decade, he held the position of Congressional Liaison for both AACC and the Association of Community College Trustees. Mensel also helped found and lead the Committee for Education Funding, which unifies educational associations and institutions in support of congressional appropriations. He is now a Senior Fellow with the Education Policy Center at the University of Alabama.

Jamie Merisotis

Featured in: Growth of Federal Student Loans, Building Block of Student-Based Aid, How the Federal Government Distributes Aid to Students

Jamie Merisotis is President and CEO of Lumina Foundation, where he leads a national goal to ensure that 60 percent of Americans hold high quality degrees, certificates and other credentials by the year 2025. Before joining Lumina Foundation in 2008, Merisotis was founding president of the Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP). Prior to founding IHEP, Merisotis served as executive director of the National Commission on Responsibilities for Financing Postsecondary Education, a bipartisan commission appointed by the U.S. president and congressional leaders. Merisotis also helped create the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS). A long champion of the idea that higher education enhances both society and individuals, Merisotis has worked for decades to increase educational opportunity among low-income, minority and other historically underrepresented populations.

Barmak Nassirian

Featured in: Growth of Federal Student Loans, How the Federal Government Distributes Aid to Students

Barmak Nassirian is Director of Federal Relations and Policy Analysis at the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU), and previously served with AASCU as the Director of Federal Policy Analysis from 1990 until 1998. During his first tenure with AASCU, he represented state colleges and universities on financing issues related to the 1992 and 1998 reauthorizations of the Higher Education Act (HEA). Nassirian also spent 15 years serving in an executive management role with the Association of College Registrars and Admissions Officers (ACRAO).

Thomas Parker

Featured in: Growth of Federal Student Loans, Building Block of Student-Based Aid

Thomas Parker is a Senior Associate at the Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP). Before his appointment at IHEP, Parker was Executive Vice President and Treasurer of the $350 million Nellie Mae Education Foundation in Quincy, Massachusetts. He co-founded and became President of The Education Resources Institute, a private not-for-profit guarantor of non-governmental student loans. He also worked in the U.S. Department of Education in the office of Shirley Hufstedler, the first U.S. Secretary of Education, National Endowment for the Humanities, and National Institute of Education. Subsequently he spent six years as Director of Planning and Research at the Massachusetts student loan guarantee agency. Parker began his career at Harvard University where he was a member of the faculty of arts and sciences, secretary to the visiting committees of the Harvard Board of Overseers, and assistant to the dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Education. He also served as vice president of Bennington College in Vermont, and taught higher education administration and finance and the history of higher education for 15 years at Boston University.

Kenneth Redd

Featured in: Growth of Federal Student Loans, Partnering with Campuses and States, How the Federal Government Distributes Aid to Students

Kenneth Redd is the Director of Research and Policy Analysis at the National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO). He began working at NACUBO in 2008 from the Council of Graduate Schools and the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA). Previously, he served as Director of Research at the USA Group Foundation (now the Lumina Foundation for Education) and as a Senior Research Associate at Sallie Mae. He also worked as a researcher and analyst at the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) and the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU). Redd began his career as an Analyst in Social Legislation at the Congressional Research Service where he primarily worked on the three campus-based aid programs: Federal Perkins Loans, Federal Work-Study, and Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (FSEOG) Program.

Joseph Russo

Featured in: Growth of Federal Student Loans, Partnering with Campuses and States, How the Federal Government Distributes Aid to Students

Joseph Russo was appointed Director of Financial Aid at the University of Notre Dame in 1978 after serving in two similar capacities in upstate New York, and in 2005, became the Director of Student Financial Strategies. Russo has served as a consultant for a number of organizations, including the College Board and the U.S. Department of Education, and has testified before the U.S. Congress on major public policy issues related to student aid. For more than two decades, Russo was the editor of the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA) Journal of Student Financial Aid. In October 2007, Mr. Russo was appointed by the White House to a federal commission charged with advising Congress on matters of access to and affordability of American higher education. Mr. Russo retired from the University in 2012 after 34 years of dedicated service and leadership.

Robert Shireman

Featured in: Growth of Federal Student Loans, Building Block of Student-Based Aid, How the Federal Government Distributes Aid to Students

Robert Shireman is the Executive Director of California Competes, a nonprofit project aimed at addressing California’s higher education challenges. Previously, Shireman served as Deputy Undersecretary of the U.S. Department of Education, where he led efforts to reform student lending, increase Pell Grants, and simplify the financial aid process. He also founded The Institute for College Access and Success (TICAS) in 2004, where he successfully pursued federal policy establishing income-based repayment for student loans. From 1996 through 1998, Shireman was Senior Policy Advisor at the White House National Economic Council. Before his time at the White House, Shireman was Legislative Director and Chief Education Advisor for Senator Paul Simon (D-IL) from 1989 until 1996, where he was involved in the 1992 Higher Education Act (HEA) Reauthorization, and the Student Loan Reform Act of 1993.

Margaret Spellings

Featured in: Growth of Federal Student Loans, Building Block of Student-Based Aid, How the Federal Government Distributes Aid to Students

Margaret Spellings, currently the president of the George W. Bush Presidential Center, served as U.S. Secretary of Education from 2005 to 2009. During her time as Secretary, Spellings launched the Commission on the Future of Higher Education to ensure that all students are equipped with the skills to succeed in the 21st century. In addition, Spellings oversaw the implementation of the Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA) of 2008 and the College Cost Reduction and Access Act (CCRAA) of 2007 which raised the maximum Pell Grant award. As White House Domestic Policy Advisor, from 2001 to 2005, she managed the development of the President’s domestic policy agenda. Prior to her service in the White House, Spellings was senior advisor to then-Governor George W. Bush of Texas, led governmental and external relations for the Texas Association of School Boards, and has served in key positions at Austin Community College and with the Texas Legislature. Prior to her current position, Spellings was President and CEO of Margaret Spellings and Company, a Washington, D.C. consulting firm that provided strategic guidance to philanthropic and private sector organizations. She also served as a Senior Advisor to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and was President of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation.

Russell Sullivan

Featured in: The Other Side of the Ledger

Russell Sullivan began his career on Capitol Hill in 1995 working for Senator Bob Graham (D-FL). He was an aide to Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-NY) until he joined Senator Max Baucus’ office (D-MT). Sullivan joined the Senate Finance Committee staff in 1999 and served as the Staff Director to that committee from 2004-2013. Throughout his time on the Hill, Sullivan counseled Senator Baucus and the Senate Finance Committee on economic policies such as tax, healthcare, trade, retirement security and budget issues. He also worked on the 2001 tax cuts (EGTRRA), the JOBS Act (2004), the Medicare Modernization Act (2004), the Pension Protection Act (2006) and the Affordable Care Act (2009-2010). Currently, Sullivan is a Senior Advisor at McGuireWoods Consulting.

Thomas Wolanin

Featured in: Growth of Federal Student Loans, Building Block of Student-Based Aid, How the Federal Government Distributes Aid to Students, The Other Side of the Ledger

Thomas Wolanin is currently a Senior Associate at the Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP). Prior to joining IHEP, Wolanin served as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Legislation and Congressional Affairs at the U.S. Department of Education. In that position, he worked on the enactment of the President’s education program, including the Federal Direct Loan Program, GOALS 2000: Educate America Act, and the School-to-Work Opportunities Act. Wolanin’s career includes service as Staff Director of the Subcommittee on Postsecondary Education in the U.S. House of Representatives where he managed the reauthorizations of the Higher Education Act (HEA) in 1980, 1986, and 1992 under the leadership of Chairman William D. Ford (D-MI). He also served in a variety of other legislative positions in the Congress and did staff work on the 1972 and 1976 HEA Reauthorization and the Middle Income Student Assistance Act (MISAA) in 1978.