Posted on October 22, 2019
WASHINGTON, October 22, 2019 — U.S. Senators Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Doug Jones (D-Ala.) today introduced legislation to simplify the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) that nearly 20 million families fill out every year to apply for federal student aid.
“The 108-question FAFSA is one of the biggest challenges low-income students who want to go to college face,” Alexander, chairman of the Senate education committee, said. “Former Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam told me that Tennessee has the highest rate of filling out the FAFSA, but it is still the single biggest impediment to more students enrolling in Tennessee Promise, our state’s free, two-year community college program. This bill will simplify the FAFSA and reduce the number of questions to 18-30 basic questions about a student, their family, and their plans for college. It will also greatly reduce the need for the burdensome verification process that stops a student’s Pell grant payment while their family scrambles to submit their federal tax information, and will allow students as young as middle school to easily learn about their likely Pell grant award, so they can begin to plan for college.”
“Aside from college applications, this may be the most important form a student and their family complete before heading off to school,” Jones, a member of the Senate education committee said. “As a father with three children who went to college, I know firsthand how difficult and frustrating this form can be. It’s no wonder so many students who might qualify for aid are intimidated from even applying. With the reforms Senator Alexander and I are proposing, we hope to fundamentally change this process and make it easier for future students to access funding that will make their dream of attaining a degree possible.”
At a hearing in 2014, the Senate education committee heard from witnesses that the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) could be greatly simplified. In 2015, Alexander and Senator Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), along with Senators Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Angus King (I-Maine), Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), and Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), introduced bipartisan legislation that would have reduced the number of FAFSA questions to two. Over the last four years, that bipartisan legislation has been improved and would reduce the FAFSA to 18-30 questions.
The FAFSA Simplification Act is supported by the National College Access Network, the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators, and the State Higher Education Officers Organization.