December 12, 2019

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FASFA Simplification Bill Moves Forward

One of AASA's priorities for the Higher Education Act reauthorization is simplifying the Free Application for  Student Financial Assistance (FASFA). Superintendents believe that students, particularly our low-income students, struggled with obtaining tax information required for the application and generally found the length and depth of the application to be complex and overwhelming to complete. We are pleased that Congress is taking action to address this issue by passing legislation that would eliminate 22 questions currently on the FASFA, allow for direct data sharing between IRS and ED as well as streamline enrollment in and renewal of income-driven repayment  plans for borrowers by removing the need for students to self-certify their income to prove eligibility for federal plans. The bill also takes meaningful steps to reduce verification burden, a process that disproportionately affects low-income students, and is burdensome for students and families.  

The reason this legislation is moving forward now is that the Senate has given up on trying to pass a reauthorization of the Higher Education Act this Congress. Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) is retiring and simplifying the FASFA was one of his key priorities for the higher-ed rewrite. Since the legislation is not moving forward legislators in both chambers agreed to work together to pass this major priority for Alexander. 

House Democrats may still try and move their partisan re-write of the Higher Education Act (which passed out of Committee on a party-line vote) to the floor in January, but it's unclear if they have the votes within their own party to move it forward.