Republicans Say Department of Education Is 'Stonewalling' FAFSA Investigation

By Maria Carrasco, NASFAA Staff Reporter

Two top Republican lawmakers on Friday sent a letter to the Department of Education (ED) urging the department to “immediately comply” with the Government Accountability Office’s (GAO) investigation on the rollout of the 2024-25 FAFSA. 

Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.), chair of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, and Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), ranking member of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP), in January called on GAO to formally examine how the 2024-25 FAFSA rollout has impacted students and schools. Now, the two lawmakers allege that ED is “illegally obstructing” GAO’s investigation by “stonewalling” the office by “hiding evidence” related to the 2024-25 FAFSA rollout. 

“The Department’s repeated delays and technical problems with the FAFSA rollout have created significant difficulties for students attempting to file applications, delays for schools trying to determine financial aid package amounts, and uncertainty for students trying to make informed decisions about which colleges to attend,” the lawmakers wrote. “If not fully identified and addressed, ongoing problems with the FAFSA will create complications for schools and college students for at least the next two academic years.”

Specifically, Foxx and Cassidy wrote that according to letters from GAO Comptroller General Gene Dodaro, GAO has met with ED “numerous times” and offered accommodations so the department could submit requested information to GAO. However, according to Dodaro, ED has not submitted many of the requested items. 

Further, Dodaro wrote that the delays from ED in submitting the requested information have affected GAO’s progress of the investigation. Foxx and Cassidy have called on ED to produce the requested information to GAO by this Friday, June 7, and to send copies of that requested information to the House Committee on Education and the Workforce and to the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee. 

“The Department’s ongoing failure to comply with GAO’s requests is unacceptable,” Foxx and Cassidy wrote. “GAO is a part of the Legislative Branch, and by preventing GAO from doing its job, the Department is interfering with our efforts to address concerns with FAFSA and pursue transparency and accountability on behalf of the American people.” 

The department, in a letter obtained by POLITICO indicated that they were in the process of responding the GAO’s requests “as quickly as possible” while at the same time remaining focused on the FAFSA rollout.

“GAO and the Department accordingly agreed that we would produce readily available documents that we could pull without interfering with the critical work and high priority deadlines on FAFSA,” the department wrote. “Consistent with this agreement, the Department has responded where it could to GAO’s extensive initial requests in these two engagements, working to transmit documents and make staff available as possible while continuing to complete the FAFSA.”


Publication Date: 6/4/2024

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