Alexander: “Final Step” of Simplifying Federal Aid Will Make it Easier for 400,000 Tennessee Students to Attend College

Posted on March 12, 2019

“After five years of bipartisan work, the FAFSA is simpler and on mobile devices, and Congress is now ready to take the final step to make it easier for 20 million American families to apply for federal financial aid and to eliminate $6 billion annually of mistakes that are unfair to taxpayers.”  -- Sen. Lamar Alexander 

WASHINGTON, D.C., March 12, 2019– Senate education committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today said Congress is ready to take the “final step” of simplifying federal aid will make it easier for 400,000 Tennessee students to attend college.

Alexander made his remarks today at a hearing to explore simplifying how students apply for financial aid and repay their loans, and reducing the jungle of red tape that wastes time and money.

“There are not many things U.S. senators can do to cause 20 million American families to say, ‘Thank you,’” Alexander said. “After five years of bipartisan work, we are ready to do just that: the FAFSA is simpler and on mobile devices, and Congress is now ready to take the final step to make it easier for those families to apply for federal financial aid and to eliminate $6 billion annually of mistakes that are unfair to taxpayers.” 

Alexander continued: “Last year the Senate passed legislation Senator Murray and I introduced that allows students to answer up to 22 questions on the FAFSA with just one click and will stop requiring students to give the same information to the federal government twice. This final step should also be a bipartisan solution that will reduce the number of questions on the FAFSA from 108 to 15-25 questions.

“In 2015, Senator Bennet and I, along with Senators Booker, Burr, King, and Isakson, introduced bipartisan legislation that would have reduced the number of FAFSA questions to two. But after discussions with college administrators and states, we realized we needed to keep some questions, or states and schools would have to create their own additional forms that students would need to fill out. Over the last four years, we have improved that legislation, and now believe we can move forward with bipartisan legislation that would reduce the FAFSA to 15-25 questions.

“This year, in addition to Senator Murray, Senators Jones, Collins and Bennet are making substantial contributions to make this proposal a reality through legislation.”

Alexander said one of the questions he hears most from students is, “Can you please make it simpler to apply for federal aid?” He went on to tell the stories of Tennesseans: “A volunteer mentor with Tennessee Promise, which is our state’s program that provides two years of free community college,  told me that the 108-question Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA—the form that 20 million families fill out each year to apply for federal student aid—has a ‘chilling effect’ on students and on parents. The former president of Southwest Tennessee Community College in Memphis told me he believes that he loses 1,500 students each semester because the FAFSA is too complicated.”

Today’s hearing was the first hearing this Congress on updating the Higher Education Act. Last month, Alexander outlined his priorities for updating the Higher Education Act at the American Enterprise Institute.

You can read Alexander’s full prepared remarks here.

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