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College Board honors UCOP’s Nancy Coolidge for lifetime service

She has worked for UCOP under six different UC presidents, and the tasks and tools of her trade have evolved significantly over the past 33 years.

For her contributions in the field of financial aid, Coolidge on Feb. 22 received the Joe Allen Exemplar Award from the College Board, a national educational association that promotes broader college participation on its non-profit side and sells various student aptitude and achievement tests and administrative tools to finance this enterprise.

“It was so gratifying to be honored in the memory of Joe Allen,” Coolidge said of the award, named for the late College Board trustee and university administrator. “He was very much beloved, and I was an admirer because of the wonderful things he did in terms of outreach and admissions for UC Santa Cruz, when it was our youngest campus.”

Coolidge’s work involves analyzing and working with legislation, policies and regulations to find ways to better support students and their families. Her efforts have included the “year-round” Pell Grant that helped finance low-income students who attend college full-time all year around. While Congress recently eliminated this additional Pell Grant for fiscal reasons, many UC students benefited from it earlier, particularly when the economy made it hard to find work in between academic years.

Another change that Coolidge advocated for was income-based repayment, which allows low-income borrowers to repay school loans based on their income rather than on the amount borrowed (which is still in effect).

Quick to share credit with her colleagues, Coolidge said the legislative analyses they perform benefit not just UC, but also students at 6,000 other U.S. institutions — from community colleges to research universities — that participate in the federal student financial aid program through Title IV of the Higher Education Act.

She speaks with amusement of her early UC days before email and computers, when she used yellow legal pads and IBM Selectric typewriters. But what she misses most is the strong national voice UC had during what she calls the “golden era” of higher education, at least in California, based on the state’s Master Plan for Higher Education.

“Congress and the state legislature have changed in many respects,” Coolidge said. “UC  was often out in front on educational policy.” In her UC role, for example, she served on the 1993 Clinton–Gore transition team, traveling to Washington to weigh in with the new administration’s key staffers on college student financial support issues.

Most change to government programs occurs incrementally, she said, and education is just one voice in what is viewed as a sea of complex “special interests.” Coolidge continues to work with UC’s offices in Washington and Sacramento to make sure UC’s concerns are heard.

Keep an eye out for Coolidge’s upcoming talk in May on Education Loan Repayment Tips, one of several financial support brown bags she gives at UCOP every year.

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