Alexander: Biggest Barrier to Tennessee Promise is “Ridiculously Complex Federal Student Aid Form”

Says his goal is to reduce 108-question FAFSA form to as close to two questions as possible by next year

Posted on August 26, 2015

NASHVILLE, August 26, 2015 – Before an event today at the University School of Nashville, Senate education committee chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said that the single biggest barrier to free college tuition for Tennessee high school graduates is a "ridiculously complex federal application form for student aid."

Discussing his plan to simplify the FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid, Alexander said, “My goal is for next year's class of applicants for Tennessee Promise to have a form to fill out that is closer to two questions than the 108 questions on the current form.”

He continued, “Every applicant for the Tennessee Promise has to fill out this form, and its complexity discourages many of the students that Governor Haslam hopes will take advantage of the free tuition opportunity.” Alexander said that the president of Southwest Tennessee Community College in Memphis told him that as many as 1,500 students per semester are discouraged from attending college because of the complex form.

The first class of Tennessee Promise students began classes Monday—with as many as 18,000 students taking advantage of the free tuition program. Governor Haslam has said, however, that many prospective students are discouraged from the program by the FAFSA form. There still may be as many as 40,000 Tennessee families who are eligible for federal aid who are not filing the form.

Alexander and Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) have legislation to reduce the form from 108 questions to two questions: What is your family income? And, what is the size of your family? Alexander has said that including the proposal is a top priority in his committee’s work to reauthorize the Higher Education Act this fall.

Alexander continued, "We may not get it all the way to two questions, but we can get it a lot closer to two than 108 and if we can, more Tennesseans will have a better future."

Senators Alexander and Bennet have also proposed allowing Pell grants to be used year-round so students can complete college more quickly if they choose, and also allowing students to fill out the federal forms in their junior year of high school instead of their senior year, so students know what financial aid will be available to them when they are shopping for colleges.

###

For access to this release and the senator’s other statements, click here.