Cory Booker and Catherine Cortez Masto Intro Bill to Simplify Financial Aid Forms
Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NC) introduced legislation 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, which they reintroduced with Senators Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), would specifically 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 such as SNAP or Medicaid. The bill would also remove a question about prior drug convictions from the form. The drug conviction question has penalized tens of thousands of students since the requirement was added in the 1998 reform of the Higher Education Act. The legislation would also provide federal financial aid eligibility to "Dreamers," and ease and streamline the verification and determination process for homeless and foster youth. “The complexity of a financial aid form should not limit the opportunities available to our country’s young people,” Booker said. “Yet, that is sadly the reality for many low-income students and students of color. Our future depends on how we educate the next generation-it’s time we start lowering the barriers to entry and begin including more students.” Among other things, the measure would increase the automatic zero Expected Family Contribution income threshold to $36,000, allowing more low-income students to be eligible for a maximum federal Pell Grant to help cover their college costs and basic needs; make the application more accessible to English learner students and their parents; and make FAFSA accessible for completion on a mobile device. Students who complete FAFSA are more likely to enroll in and graduate from college, making it a powerful tool to increase access to higher education. Yet, less than half of all students complete the application and school districts with higher child poverty levels have lower completion rates than their wealthier peers. More here.