Notre Dame financial aid director lends expertise to new report on student success

Author: Dennis Brown

Spring on campus. Photo by Barbara Johnston/University of Notre Dame.

Mary Nucciarone, director of financial aid at the University of Notre Dame, is among the 50 members of the Higher Education Committee of 50 that Wednesday (March 13) released 36 recommendations for how to best help students succeed in college.

Facilitated by the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA) and funded by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the committee was composed of college presidents, members of governing boards, enrollment managers, admissions staff, financial aid leaders, students and others from all sectors of higher education. They spent the past 18 months examining policy areas related to college access, affordability, accountability and transparency to produce their final recommendations.

“The HEC50 report is a roadmap to fair access to universities, which is opposite to scandal we have witnessed in recent days,” Nucciarone said. “This group of educational leaders is committed to providing all qualified students, regardless of socio-economic status, the information they need about the many opportunities for postsecondary education.   

“Our goal is to raise awareness of policymakers, institutional leaders and the general public. We believe our report provides practical recommendations on how access barriers can be broken down, particularly for low-income or first-generation students. The public policy recommendations are focused on strategies to improve federal aid delivery and holding institutions accountable for educational outcomes.”

Nucciarone will be among the committee members who will present the recommendations to members of Congress on Thursday (March 14).

The recommendations are intended to improve the experience of students and families in affording and obtaining a higher education, as well as protect the interests of taxpayers and those who work on college campuses. Among the three dozen proposals are

  • Requiring the U.S. Department of Education to provide more transparency on the verification-selection process through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, with the goal of reducing the number of FAFSA applications selected for verification.
  • Requiring the Education Department to develop and add a dynamic, user-tested truth-in-lending calculator and annual debt letter to entrance counseling and the federal web portal for borrowers (
  • Permitting students to file a FAFSA that would allow financial aid consideration for multiple years (e.g., a one-time FAFSA).
  • Eliminating higher education tax credits and putting those funds into the Federal Pell Grant program.
  • Lifting the ban on collecting student unit-record level data and developing a Student Unit Record Data System (SURDS).
  • Returning the 90/10 rule ratio to 85/15. Also, including U.S. Department of Defense military tuition assistance benefits and Veterans Affairs benefits as part of the calculation of federal revenue (in other words, the 85 percent from which these benefits are currently excluded).
  • Simplifying and improving the current financial aid application process by implementing NASFAA’s proposed three-level application process, expanding the functionality of the IRS Data Retrieval Tool, considering a multiyear FAFSA and/or considering use of the federal tax return as the aid application.

Nucciarone is responsible for recommending and implementing policies and procedures in the administration, oversight and distribution of federal, state and institutional financial aid funds at Notre Dame. She manages all operations related to the Office of Financial Aid, including supporting the administration of the University’s undergraduate scholarships, student employment and public relations matters.

Nucciarone began her financial aid career at Saint Mary’s College after earning her bachelor’s degree from Marquette University. She is currently a trustee of the College Board, chair of the College Board Colloquium Planning Committee, member of the College Board Task Force on Reauthorization and a board member of the Scholarship Foundation of St. Joseph County.

The National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators is a nonprofit membership organization that represents more than 20,000 financial aid professionals at nearly 3,000 U.S. colleges, universities and career schools.

The full Higher Education Committee of 50 report is available here, and an executive summary is here.