A new bill has been introduced by Education and the Workforce Committee Ranking Member Rep. Bobby Scott in an effort to simplify the federal student loan application for low-income students.
HR 5784, otherwise known as the File Once FAFSA Act of 2016, would create a more simplistic solution for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) for low-income students. Through the bill, dependent Pell Grant recipients would only need to file once before going to college, which would put an end to the need to refile in subsequent years.
If it goes through, the bill would affect close to 3.5 million low-income students by allowing them to obtain Pell Grant aid and attend college more easily.
"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," said Scott.
In order to be considered to be a dependent student, an applicant must be under the age of 24, not married, and may not have any children when they file the FAFSA. Low-income students and parents are currently required to refile the FAFSA on an annual basis with updated financial information.
Research on the topic suggests that the application process may be too confusing for many students to complete, which may cause them to miss out on potential aid. One in ten Pell Grant recipients who reenroll in a second consecutive year do not refile a FAFSA. One of the most difficult parts of the FAFSA to complete for Pell Grant recipients is the annual requirement for updated financial information. While such information is helpful in the initial determination of Pell Grant eligibility, it is considered to be unnecessary to obtain each year because Pell Grant awards are fairly consistent each year for dependent students.
In a statement, NASFAA President Justin Draeger called the bill a first step toward the improvement of the federal financial aid application process for low-income students throughout the country and applauded Scott for his efforts in this area. He went on to say that the focus needs to be on ensuring that low-income students and their families are able to receive the funding they need in order to enroll in college and be successful rather than continually asking that they prove they are in need of the assistance. Draeger ended his statement by saying NASFAA looks forward to working with Scott and making sure the right students are found so that they are able to benefit from the bill.
Scott made the announcement of the bill earlier in the week during a keynote address delivered at the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA) 50th Anniversary Conference.