WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA), ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, wrote an op-ed in Newsweek slamming the Biden administration’s failure to properly implement the new Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) program. These delays threaten students and families’ access to crucial financial aid information as they choose the college they can afford to attend.
“These unacceptable delays from the Biden administration create the real likelihood that students will be expected to make one of the most significant decisions of their lives without complete information,” wrote Dr. Cassidy. “Many students will likely forgo college entirely because they cannot choose a school without knowing their eligibility for student aid.”
“Congress must hold the Biden administration accountable for these failures on behalf of students and families. We must ensure FAFSA operates properly so students can get the financial aid they are eligible for and need,” continued Dr. Cassidy. “Millions of Americans depend on it to achieve their dreams of attending college. The misguided priorities of the Biden administration should not deny them this opportunity.”
At a press conference last week, Cassidy announced that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has begun an investigation into the Department of Education’s (DeptEd) incompetent mishandling of FAFSA following a bicameral request from Republican lawmakers last week. Cassidy also announced that his office launched a website hotline for students, guidance counselors, college admissions faculty, financial aid administrators, and others to report issues they have had with the FAFSA process: www.help.senate.gov/FAFSA.
Read the full op-ed here or below:
Choosing a college is one of the biggest decisions a young person will make. It affects not only future career prospects, but financial outcomes for years to come.
Each year, more than 17 million students submit a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Many students depend on FAFSA to determine if and how they are going to afford college.
In 2020, Congress passed legislation to streamline the FAFSA process. It intended to make financial aid more accessible for all students. Congress made clear that the Department of Education must implement these reforms by January 1, 2024.
Despite the department having three years to prepare, students were only able to access FAFSA sporadically until January 6.
While the Department of Education claims this limited release met the legal deadline, it still came three months late—FAFSA is normally expected to be available in October.
This delayed timeline is already having severe consequences. High school counselors have been forced to postpone financial aid information sessions because they have received no guidance from the department on how to assist students in completing FAFSA. Colleges are delayed in releasing financial aid offers to potential students due to a lack of information.
This week, the department announced it will not begin the transmission of FAFSA information to colleges and universities—a process that should have begun in January—until mid-March.
These unacceptable delays from the Biden administration create the real likelihood that students will be expected to make one of the most significant decisions of their lives without complete information. Many students will likely forgo college entirely because they cannot choose a school without knowing their eligibility for student aid.
The Biden administration's failure to meet its basic responsibilities—like implementing Congress' bipartisan FAFSA reforms—should come as no surprise. For the last three years, the Education Department has prioritized implementing its student loan schemes. These schemes transfer the burden of student debt onto Americans who chose not to attend college or already worked to pay off their loans.
This month, the department announced it would be spending more time and resources to expedite its new income-driven repayment scheme. Experts say this policy will cost taxpayers up to $559 billion. It also allows a majority of bachelor's degree student loan borrowers to not pay back even the principal on their loans.
In addition, the department wasted resources on another student loan cancelation scheme that was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.
To be clear, these policies do not increase access to higher education. They do nothing to address the underlying causes for why students are going into debt in the first place. Meanwhile, the Education Department's FAFSA blunders threaten students' ability to obtain the financial aid necessary to attend college in the first place.
Last week, Republicans submitted a bicameral request to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) for a formal investigation into the department's incompetent mishandling of FAFSA. We need to understand the full impact of its failure to fulfill its basic responsibilities to the American people. GAO has now begun that investigation.
Congress must hold the Biden administration accountable for these failures on behalf of students and families. We must ensure FAFSA operates properly so students can get the financial aid they are eligible for and need. Millions of Americans depend on it to achieve their dreams of attending college. The misguided priorities of the Biden administration should not deny them this opportunity.