Financial Aid

Bill Would Simplify FAFSA Financial Aid Process

Congressional Democrats have introduced legislation that would simplify the FAFSA process. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid is a form that low-income students are required to fill out every year in order to apply for Pell grants, which provide baseline financial aid. Under the "File Once FAFSA Act of 2016," the student would only have to file the form one time before going to college.

According to a fact sheet on the legislation, about two million enrolled college students would be eligible to receive a Pell grant, except they won't because they've never completed a FAFSA. In fact, among those who continue college for a second year, 1 in 10 doesn't do so, primarily, the bill's author suggested, because of the "complexity of the application process."

Virginia's Bobby Scott said the new legislation he introduced would enable Pell-eligible dependent students to provide their parents' financial information once before heading to college. Each subsequent year, the award would be issued without having to refile. In the event that a student's financial situation changes dramatically, he or she would receive a "professional judgment determination" from the institution's financial aid administrator.

Scott added that if the legislation were enacted, it would "help nearly 3.5 million low-income students obtain Pell Grant aid more easily."

The Higher Education Act's "goal was and still is to provide a pathway to the middle class for millions of working families around the country by making college affordable and accessible to everyone," Scott said in a prepared statement. "Simplifying the FAFSA removes unnecessary obstacles that can deter first-time and non-traditional students."

Numerous education organizations have come out in support of the bill, including the American Association of Community Colleges, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities and the National Association of State Student Grant and Aid Programs, among many others.

The bill currently awaits attention in the House Committee on Education & the Workforce.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.