AMHERST, Mass. – Jon Westover, a senior associate director of admissions at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, has been named to a national committee of 50 higher education administrators and supporters that was created to inform and influence the next reauthorization of the federal Higher Education Act (HEA).
Members of the Higher Education Committee of 50 (or “Forward50”) were appointed by the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA). The group will spend the next year examining policy areas related to higher education access, affordability, accountability and transparency and will produce practical solutions and recommendations for members of Congress.
HEA became law in 1965 and has been reauthorized eight times, most recently in 2008. The current Republican Congress is proposing changes broadly aimed at deregulation and adding accountability in how federal aid is distributed.
Beside federal aid, the legislation is expected to touch on numerous issues, including improved preparation for graduates entering the work force, sexual assault on campus and free speech policies.
“We’ll be looking at what’s in the bill, what we would like to see done differently,” Westover said.
Members of the Forward50, which includes five college presidents, are well placed to represent higher education, holding memberships with more than 140 other related professional associations.
Westover has worked in college admissions for 20 years at institutions throughout New York and Massachusetts. He currently manages the recruitment and selection of the UMass Amherst incoming first-year class of about 4,650 students from an applicant pool of 43,000 students from across the world.
In this role, he aims to provide access to higher education for a diverse group of students from a multitude of geographic areas and at all income levels.
“The Higher Education Act is an important piece of legislation that impacts the work I do on a daily basis. It’s overdue for reauthorization,” Westover said.
“As Congress works to create their own bill, I feel they need to hear from those of us who work most closely with students throughout the admissions and financial aid processes. We need to encourage Congress that access to higher education is the most effective way to change a student’s life and circumstances. A minimal investment in education results in significant returns not only for the individual, but also for the community,” he said.
Westover said he expects the Forward50 to meet as a whole in March and December, with smaller groups assigned to specific topics.
Westover has consulted with public officials throughout his career, beginning as an undergraduate student at SUNY Potsdam. “I had the opportunity to speak with my assemblyman about tuition levels and issues regarding financial aid at public institutions. When I became an admissions counselor, I also joined the New York State Association for College Admission Counseling, where I was able to combine my love of politics with my advocacy efforts for all students in the college admissions process.”
Westover is a past president, treasurer and chair of the governmental relations committee of the New England Association for College Admissions Counseling (NEACAC) and a former chair of the governmental relations committee of the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC).