Senate Education Leaders Propose Bipartisan Solution to Simplify the FAFSA for 20 Million Families and to Permanently Fund Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Minority Serving Institutions

Posted on December 3, 2019

WASHINGTON, December 3, 2019 — Senate Education Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Senators Tim Scott (R-S.C.), Doug Jones (D-Ala.), Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Chris Coons (D-Del.) today released a bipartisan amendment to the House-passed FUTURE Act to make permanent $255 million in annual funding for Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Minority Serving Institutions, simplify the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) for 20 million American families, and streamline income-driven repayment for nearly 8 million borrowers.

“It’s hard to think of a piece of legislation that would have more of a lasting impact on minority students and their families than this bill,” Senator Alexander said. “First, it provides permanent funding for HBCUs and other Minority Serving Institutions attended by over 2 million minority students. Second, it takes a big first step in simplifying the FAFSA for 20 million American families, including 8 million minority students, and eliminating the bureaucratic nightmare created by requiring students to give the federal government the same information twice.”

“While this funding should never have lapsed in the first place, I’m glad that we were able to reach a deal that provides minority-serving institutions with the certainty of funding they deserve—and I truly appreciate the work done on both sides of the aisle to get us to this point,” Senator Murray said. “By permanently extending funding for these valuable institutions and streamlining our student aid system, this deal is a win-win. Now, I look forward to continuing to work with my Republican colleagues on efforts to overhaul the Higher Education Act in a comprehensive, bipartisan way that does right by all students.”

“The FUTURE Act will provide much-needed long-term financial stability to our nation’s HBCUs and other minority-serving institutions,” Senator Scott said. “I am proud to support this bipartisan solution, which reauthorizes HBCU and MSI funding without putting taxpayers on the hook, and which takes a vital first step towards streamlining and simplifying the FAFSA form. This bill is a win for students, families, and taxpayers.”

“The permanent renewal of federal funding is a huge win for our nation’s minority-serving institutions, which have faced growing uncertainty and anxiety since their $255 million in annual funding expired in September,” Senator Jones said. “Instead of making tough decisions to cut programs and staff this holiday season, they can now count on permanent funding that will enable them to plan long-term and focus on their educational mission. With our proposal today, we also take an important first step toward simplifying our federal student aid application and helping more students achieve the dream of a college education. I thank my colleagues Senators Alexander and Murray for working to find a bipartisan compromise on two issues that are deeply important to the people we serve.”

“North Carolina is home to more HBCUs than any other state in the nation,” Senator Burr said. “The number one concern for HBCUs is unpredictable funding. This amendment alleviates that problem by providing certainty not just for two years, but for many years to come. I applaud Chairman Alexander for leading the effort to better preserve these historic learning institutions for current and future students.”

“HBCUs have played a critical role in helping to ensure that every American is able to access higher education,” Senator Coons said. “I’m honored to work with colleagues from both parties to permanently fund these incredibly important American institutions.” 

Background on the Amendment:

  • Permanently reauthorizes and provides $255 million in annual mandatory funding for Historically Black Colleges and Universities and other Minority Serving Institutions
  • Is fully paid for by including the FAFSA Act which passed the Senate unanimously last year and which:
    • Allows Providing Tax Information only Once—Students do not have to give their tax information to the federal government twice
    • Eliminates up to 22 Questions—Students give permission to the Department of Education to request tax return data already given to the Internal Revenue Service, which reduces the 108 questions on the FAFSA by up to 22 questions
    • Eliminates Verification Nightmare—For most students, eliminates so-called “verification” which is a bureaucratic nightmare that 5.5 million students go through annually to make sure the information they gave to the Department of Education is exactly the same as they gave to the IRS
    • Eliminates $6 Billion in Mistakes—According to the Department of Education, helps taxpayers by eliminating up to $6 billion each year in mistakes (both overpayments and underpayments) in Pell grants and student loans
  • Enables 7 million applicants who are currently unable to access their IRS data for their FAFSA to verify that they do not file taxes without requesting separate documentation from the IRS
  • Streamlines student loan repayment by eliminating burdensome annual paperwork for 7.7 million federal student loan borrowers on income-driven plans
  • According to the Congressional Budget Office, the FAFSA Act saves taxpayers $2.8 billion over ten years which will be used to pay for the permanent funding for HBCUs and other minority-serving institutions.

 

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