Earlier this month, Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX), ranking member of the House Ways and Means Tax Policy Subcommittee, introduced legislation aimed at simplifying the FAFSA. The bill, known as the Equitable Student Aid Access Act, bears similarities to measures proposed in NASFAA’s 2014 FAFSA Simplification report.
The bill would add receipt of a federal means-tested benefits program (such as SSI, SNAP, and Medicaid) as a sole qualifier for an auto-zero expected family contribution (EFC) determination. This change would allow students and families who have already demonstrated high need to automatically qualify for maximum federal student aid, thereby reducing the FAFSA to personal identity and non-income eligibility questions.
In addition, the bill codifies the Early FAFSA and use of prior-prior year (PPY) tax information put into place by former President Barrack Obama via executive action in fall 2015, ensuring that students will continue to be able submit their federal financial aid application for the coming school year in October rather than in January using data financial data filed with the IRS two years prior.
“My bill, like my prior successful FAFSA legislation, is designed to take the next step in removing unnecessary obstacles to ease access to student financial aid. All students who qualify for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or food assistance through SNAP, for example, would be able to complete a shorter form FAFSA to access the full Pell Grant amount,” Doggett said in a press release.
NASFAA has long been a proponent of eliminating irrelevant and unnecessary questions from the FAFSA in order to make the application process easier and more efficient, particularly for students with the highest amounts of financial need. Simplifying the auto-zero EFC determination was a recommendation in NASFAA’s 2013 Higher Education Act (HEA) Reauthorization Task Force (RTF) report.
Doggett’s bill would effectively implement “path one” of NASFAA’s 2014 FAFSA Working Group report, which recommended paring the FAFSA down to require just basic personal identifiers and demographic information, and questions necessary to determine the applicant’s dependency status. Under NASFAA’s plan, applicants would then be steered down one of three paths based on their receipt of certain federal means-tested benefits and their tax filing status. As with Doggett’s bill, the process would weed out questions about certain financial resources that students with the highest need are unlikely to have so that they would be presented with the fewest number of questions.
NASFAA is pleased to lend its support to Doggett’s bill, which features 62 co-sponsors, and will continue to push on in its efforts to streamline the aid application process appropriately for students and families.
Publication Date: 4/24/2017