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Booker Introduces Bill to Simplify Federal Student Aid

Less than half of high school students complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)

August 20, 2018
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WASHINGTON, D.C – As the 2018-19 school year gets underway, U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ), along with U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Doug Jones (D-AL), Kamala Harris (D-CA), and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), re-introduced a bill to streamline the financial aid application process for graduate and undergraduate students, in an effort to help more underserved students have access to financial aid and attend college.

The Simplifying Financial Aid for Students Act of 2018 would simplify the FAFSA form, making it more accessible and easier to complete for low-income students by greatly reducing the number of questions a student would need to answer if she or he is a recipient of a means-tested program and by increasing the number of questions based on tax filing characteristics.  

“We know that when a student completes the federal financial aid form, he or she is more likely to receive aid, attend college, and graduate from college,” Booker said. “But sadly, less than half of today’s high school students complete the form, and students from underserved backgrounds complete the form at even lower rates than their peers. We must make the process of obtaining aid for higher education easier. Our bill would simplify the complicated process in order to reduce barriers to higher learning for students from marginalized populations.”

“When students are discouraged from even applying for federal financial aid because of the complexity of the process, our nation fails the bright, young individuals who are simply seeking to further their education in pursuit of their goals,” Blumenthal said. “As we continue to fight the student debt crisis, simplifying the process to apply for federal assistance is a critical first step towards getting financial aid into the hands of those who need it most.”

“Our young people should be able to pursue a higher education without worrying about drowning in debt after they have earned their degree. That’s why I’m proud to support the Simplifying Financial Aid for Students Act which would make the application process for federal financial aid easier and more accessible for low-income students,” said Gillibrand. “ I will continue to fight for common sense legislation to lift the burden of access to financial aid.”

“As the first in my family to go to college, I know firsthand how important the opportunity to pursue higher education can be to achieve the American Dream. But right now, needless obstacles are putting that dream in jeopardy for far too many American students,” Merkley said. “Income, background, and access to technology shouldn’t put students at a disadvantage. It’s time to remove hurdles to starting the college enrollment process, and ensure that every student who wants to can pursue higher education.”

“For too long, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid has been overly complicated and burdensome for applicants,” Jones said. “Simplifying the financial aid process will remove a key barrier to higher education for Alabama students, streamlining the path to college particularly for low-income students. All students deserve a pathway to a quality, affordable education.”

“We must remove the barriers of bureaucracy that prevent students and their families from accessing an affordable education,” Harris said. “The process to apply for financial aid should be simple enough that no student, no matter their background, is limited in their pursuit of higher education. This bill simplifies this process for students and families so they have the opportunity to reach their full potential.”

“Applying for federal financial aid can be an overwhelming and confusing process for many students and their families,” Cortez Masto said. “Modernizing and simplifying the process of applying for federal student aid will not only empower students and their families to find all of the resources to pursue a higher education, it will also support students in receiving the federal assistance they need to overcome the financial hurdles associated with going to college. I am proud to cosponsor a measure that would increase financial and educational opportunities for students and help them on their path to a higher education.”

Specifically the Simplifying Financial Aid for Students Act of 2018 would:

  • Deem a student eligible for a “zero expected family contribution” determination if the student’s parents or the student are recipients of means tested programs.

  • Modify the simplified needs analysis formula by proposing a pathways approach based on income tax filing characteristics.

  • Transform the FAFSA to use the most minimal set of data elements when assessing student need.

  • Coordinate between the Department of Education, the Internal Revenue Service and other Departments and Agencies to deem eligibility for an automatic zero expected family contribution.

  • Codify the use of prior-prior year data into law.

  • Make FAFSA accessible for completion on a mobile device.

  • Aim to make FAFSA accessible to more students by eliminating the Selective Service registration and prior drug convictions from student eligibility criteria for federal student financial aid.

  • Streamline determinations and verification for homeless and foster youth and consolidate questions regarding homeless status on the FAFSA.

  • Make DREAMers eligible for federal financial aid.

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