Education Groups Overwhelmingly Support Bipartisan Legislation to Simplify the FAFSA

Legislation will help nearly 20 million families who fill out the burdensome form every year

WASHINGTON, November 6, 2019 — Higher education organizations across the country have announced their support for bipartisan legislation introduced by Senators Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Doug Jones (D-Ala.) 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 FAFSA Simplification Act addresses one of the largest challenges low-income students who want to go to college face by reducing the 108-question form to 18-30 basic questions about a student, their family, and their plans for college. The bill also greatly reduces 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.

What People are Saying:

Southern Regional Education Board: “The FAFSA is the way almost 20 million Americans access federal, state, and institution based financial aid to go to college each year. The complexity of the form and the effect of verification processes is also one of the biggest barriers for many of our most vulnerable students to enter a postsecondary institution.”

Midwestern Higher Education Compact: “Our state members and their respective institutions see first-hand the barriers that the FAFSA can create to enrolling and graduating the students our states need. These students, in turn, power our state economies which is why it is critical to give them a fair shot, regardless of income, to obtain an affordable post-secondary credential…Streamlining, simplifying and clarifying the process for students and families, while balancing the need for states to operate need-based grant programs and for institutions to have access to information they need to distribute billions of dollars in aid each year, is long overdue.” 

New England Board of Higher Education: “Our region simply cannot afford to lose any students due the financial aid application process being unnecessarily cumbersome. At a time when New England is facing college enrollment declines and, in some cases, campus closures due to significant demographic shifts, simplifying financial aid processes can increase FAFSA completion rates–especially among low-income students. This can help sustain current and future enrollments at the region’s institutions of higher education.”

Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education: “We believe that the proposed legislation would support a streamlined, efficient financial aid application process, and still provide states and institutions the necessary information to offer financial aid to their diverse student populations.”

Tennessee Higher Education Commission and Tennessee Student Assistance Corporation: “For Tennessee, the complexity of the FAFSA presents a barrier for students attempting to enroll in Tennessee Promise, Tennessee Reconnect, and other financial aid programs like the HOPE Access Grant. In the 2018-19 school year, over 400,000 Tennesseans submitted a FAFSA, and that information was the cornerstone to access both state and federal aid. Simplifying the FAFSA would improve college access for students in Tennessee by allowing the federal government and our state to better target financial aid to the neediest students.” 

California Student Aid Commission: “Statewide efforts to promote FAFSA completion and college enrollment thrive on simple messages.  The new simple Pell Grant formula will allow statewide college access messaging campaigns to inform students and families about how much Pell Grant they will likely [be] eligible based on a table or simple calculator.”

State Council of Higher Education for Virginia: “Virginia’s citizens see first-hand the barriers that the FAFSA can create for many students. We will not be able to meet our educational goals unless more people enroll and graduate. Streamlining the FAFSA is key to unlocking a more prosperous Virginia. The FAFSA Simplification Act of 2019 represents a commitment to better utilizing existing data and making this process much simpler for students." 

Indiana Commission for Higher Education: “The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the way almost 20 million Americans access federal, state, and institution based financial aid to go to college each year. The complexity of the form and the effect of verification processes are two significant barriers Hoosiers face when applying for student financial aid and enrolling in postsecondary education.”

Missouri Letter of Support for FAFSA Simplification: “The MDHEWD works every day toward a future in which every Missourian is empowered with the skills and education needed for success. We sponsor 185 FAFSA Frenzy events throughout the state each year, and our staff and volunteers see the barriers, confusion, and stress filling out the long, complicated form creates. This matters in Missouri because the FAFSA is the tool more than 40,000 Missourians use to access federal, state, and institutional financial aid to go to college each year. The complexity of the form and the effect of verification processes are significant barriers for many of our most vulnerable students.” 

The FAFSA Simplification Act is also supported by the National College Access Network, the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators, the National Association of State Student Grant & Aid Programs, and the State Higher Education Officers Organization.