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Alexander: New App Makes Applying for Federal Aid for College like Booking An Airline Ticket

With Secretary DeVos, shows Sevier County students how 400,000 Tennesseans now can fill out FAFSA on their phones

We have apps on our phones to do anything from booking an airplane ticket to placing an Amazon order, so while it may seem very ordinary to fill out the FAFSA on an app, this is the first year it’s possible. There are still too many questions on the form. But this is an important step to make it simpler for 20 million American families each year to apply for student aid.”  --Lamar Alexander

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SEVIERVILLE, TENN., November 13, 2018 – Senate education committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today told a group of high school juniors and seniors in Sevierville that the first step toward college—applying for federal and state financial aid— is now “like booking an airline ticket”

Alexander and U.S. Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos today visited Sevier County High School to show students and local guidance counselors how to use the new phone application.  

“We have apps on our phones that allow us to do anything from booking an airplane ticket to placing an Amazon order, so while it may seem very ordinary to fill out the FAFSA on an app, this is the first year its possible,” Alexander. “Last year, about 775 high school students in Sevier County filled out the FAFSA – along with another 400,000 Tennesseans —but many others are did not fill it out. I am glad Secretary DeVos is taking steps to make it easier for students to apply for federal and state financial aid, including Pell Grants, Tennessee Promise, and the Tennessee Hope Scholarship.”

“Because of the state’s free tuition program for two years of college, a higher percentage of Tennessee families answer the 108  questions on the FAFSA form than in almost any other state,” Alexander said. “There are still too many questions on the form. I have introduced  bipartisan legislation to reduce the number of those questions, but this is an important step to make it simpler to apply for student aid.”

“Our goal is to make sure student borrowers who interact with Federal Student Aid have a world class customer service experience,” said Secretary DeVos. “Filling out the FAFSA is now easier than ever before. For the first time, students and parents can access the FAFSA on their cell phone and tablets thanks to the newly launched myStudentAid app. While this is a major first step in our efforts to transform FSA, there is still much work to be done to simplify the FAFSA and make the student loan repayment process more streamlined and easier to navigate. I look forward to working with Chairman Alexander and Congress on these important reforms.”

Every year 20 million students complete the FAFSA. In October, the U.S. Department of Education launched a new mobile application that works on smartphones and tablets to make it simpler and easier to apply for and, in the future, pay back federal aid, including completing the FAFSA. U.S. Department of Education officials today helped students at Sevier County High School complete the first steps of the FAFSA.  

At a hearing before the Senate education committee in 2013, witnesses testified that the FAFSA was a major barrier that prevented students from attending college. In January 2015, Alexander introduced bipartisan legislation based on their research to simplify the FAFSA to a postcard with just two questions. Alexander then held seven round tables around Tennessee to hear from students, parents, college counselors, college presidents, Tennessee Promise mentors, and financial aid professionals about the FAFSA. At one roundtable, the former president of Southwest Tennessee Community College in Memphis told Alexander he believes that he loses 1,500 students each semester because of the complexity of the form. Alexander’s legislation served as a starting point for outside organizations to develop additional proposals to simplify the FAFSA, and in November 2017, Alexander held a hearing to hear more about these proposals.