August 17, 2018

Cortez Masto Cosponsors Bill to Simplify Federal Student Aid

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) cosponsored the Simplifying Financial Aid for Students Act of 2018, 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 bill would simplify the FAFSA form, making it more accessible and easier to complete for low-income students by greatly reducing the number of questions a student would need to answer if they are a recipient of a means-tested program and increasing the number of questions based on tax filing characteristics.

“Applying for federal financial aid can be an overwhelming and confusing process for many students and their families,” said Cortez Masto. “Modernizing and simplifying the process of applying for federal student aid will not only empower students and their families to find all of the resources to pursue a higher education, it will also support students in receiving the federal assistance they need to overcome the financial hurdles associated with going to college. I am proud to cosponsor a measure that would increase financial and educational opportunities for students and help them on their path to a higher education.” 

“We know that when a student completes the federal financial aid form, he or she is more likely to receive aid, attend college, and graduate from college,” Booker said. “But sadly, less than half of today’s high school students complete the form, and students from underserved backgrounds complete the form at even lower rates than their peers. We must make the process of obtaining aid for higher education easier. Our bill would simplify the complicated process in order to reduce barriers to higher learning for students from marginalized populations.”

The bill was re-introduced by U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and cosponsored by Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Doug Jones (D-Ala.), and Kamala Harris (D-Calif.).

Specifically the Simplifying Financial Aid for Students Act of 2018 would:

  • 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.
  • Modify the simplified needs analysis formula by proposing a pathways approach based on income tax filing characteristics.
  • Transform the FAFSA to use the most minimal set of data elements when assessing student need.
  • Coordinate between the Department of Education, the Internal Revenue Service and other Departments and Agencies to deem eligibility for an automatic zero expected family contribution.
  • Codify the use of prior-prior year data into law.
  • Make FAFSA accessible for completion on a mobile device.
  • Aim to make FAFSA accessible to more students by eliminating the Selective Service registration and prior drug convictions from student eligibility criteria for federal student financial aid.
  • Streamline determinations and verification for homeless and foster youth and consolidate questions regarding homeless status on the FAFSA.
  • Make DREAMers eligible for federal financial aid.