Senate Committee Makes Push for Further FAFSA Simplification

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Applying for financial aid can be a complicated task that requires significant time and effort for students and their families. According to recent data from the National Center for Education Statistics, although 65 percent of students who were high school freshmen in 2009 ultimately reported completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), 24 percent did not. Those who did not submit a FAFSA cited lack of awareness, lack of understanding of FAFSA requirements, and lack of time as barriers to completion.

On Sept. 17, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) held a hearing titled “Time to Finish Fixing the FAFSA.” Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and ranking member Patty Murray (D-WA) have both sponsored FAFSA simplification legislation.

The committee’s plan would affect several aspects of what students and parents see firsthand. Among other things, the committee’s proposal would:

  • Reduce the FAFSA to 33 questions;
  • Remove the Department of Education’s verification process and only use the Internal Revenue Services (IRS) data retrieval tool (DRT);
  • Create a simpler process for students who are homeless, in the foster system, or not in touch with their parents to apply for aid as independent students;
  • Create a Pell Grant eligibility formula allowing middle and high school students—or others applying for aid—to know how much Pell Grant money they can access to pay for college; and
  • Help students from single parent families by taking their greater need into account within the funding formula.

Read more on the committee hearing and related legislation here.

Tiziana G. Marchante is NACAC’s project coordinator for educational content and policy. You can reach her at tmarchante@nacacnet.org.

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