Today, Education and the Workforce Committee Ranking Member Rep. Bobby Scott (VA-03) introduced H.R. 5784, the File Once FAFSA Act of 2016. The legislation simplifies the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) for low-income students by requiring dependent Pell Grant recipients to file just once before going to college and forgo burdensome refiling in subsequent years. If enacted, this bill will make it easier for nearly 3.5 million low-income students to obtain critical Pell Grant aid and access and complete college.
“As Congress works to reauthorize the Higher Education Act (HEA), more must be done to meaningfully simplify all federal financial aid processes for our neediest students,” said Ranking Member Scott. “HEA’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. Simplifying the FAFSA removes unnecessary obstacles that can deter first-time and non-traditional students. The File Once FAFSA Act will simplify the financial aid process for dependent Pell recipients and help more of these students obtain aid to complete college degrees. As a result, a low-income high school student will only be required to provide their parents’ financial information on the FAFSA once for their entire college career. Each subsequent year, the student could count on receiving their Pell Grant without having to go through the entire application process. I hope this proposal will help to address the complex application barriers that too often burden low-income students.”
Applicants under the age of 24 who are not married and do not have children, among other factors, are considered dependent students when filing a FAFSA. Currently, low-income students and parents are required to annually refile the FAFSA with updated financial information.
Research suggests that the complexity of the application process prevents many students from obtaining aid—1 in 10 Pell Grant recipients who reenroll the following year do not refile a FAFSA. One particularly onerous part of refiling for dependent Pell Grant recipients is the requirement to annually provide their own and their parents’ financial information. While financial information is useful when determining Pell eligibility initially, due to the consistency of Pell Grant awards for dependent students who reenroll, this information is unnecessary to collect year after year.
Ranking Member Scott first announced the File Once FAFSA Act of 2016 on Monday in a keynote addressed delivered at the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA) 50th Anniversary Conference.
“NASFAA applauds Mr. Scott for this important first step towards improving the federal financial aid application process for our nation’s lowest income students,” said NASFAA President Justin Draeger. “Our focus should be on getting low-income students and families the funds they need to successfully enroll and succeed in college, instead of asking them to continually prove their poverty. We look forward to working with him to make sure we’ve identified the right students to benefit from this vital proposal.”
In addition to NASFAA, the File Once FAFSA Act of 2016 is supported by: American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), Association of Community College Trustees (ACCT), Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU), Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP), The Education Trust, Generation Progress, Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU), National Association of State Student Grant and Aid Programs (NASSGAP), National College Access Network (NCAN), The Institute For College Access and Success (TICAS), Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF), U.S. Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG) and Young Invincibles.
The File Once FAFSA Act is also supported by higher education scholars: Estela Bensimon (University of Southern California), Stephen DesJardins (University of Michigan), Sara Goldrick-Rab (Temple University), Donald E. Heller (University of San Francisco), Shouping Hu (Florida State University), Bridget Terry Long (Harvard University), Robert Kelchen (Seton Hall University), Thomas Mortenson (The Pell Institute), Gary Orfield (University of California, Los Angeles), Lindsay Page (University of Pittsburgh) and Judith Scott-Clayton (Columbia University).