Lawmakers working to simplify federal student aid application process

2 NEWS Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON, Ohio (WDTN) – The Federal Student Aid application is long and complicated, with more than 100 questions. Students seeking loans to pay for college must fill it out every year, and college administrators say thousands of students have to drop out or postpone college simply because of the difficulties of applying for grants and loans.

Lawmakers, however, are working on ways to dramatically simplify the process.

“I think we’re on the verge of helping 20 million American families,” says Senator Lamar Alexander.

For students who fill out the Federal Student Aid application every year — it can be a confusing and time-consuming process.

The form has more than 100 questions, and advocates say it is causing many low-income students to miss out on financial aid and give up on college.

Kristina Scott is Executive Director of Alabama Possible — a Birmingham non-profit that works to reduce education barriers.

“One of the things that we heard over and over again is, ‘I don’t understand this question,’ and ‘I don’t understand why people are asking it,’” Scott says.

She testified during a Tuesday Senate hearing that the application should be much shorter, that around two dozen questions should do it.

“Really honing in on the very important questions would be a big help for the families that we work with,” she says.

Alabama Senator Doug Jones is also pushing the effort.

“I think it’s a huge impediment people just quit and when they don’t get the financial aid, they don’t go to college,” he said.

Another big complaint from financial aid applicants is having to submit the same information to multiple government agencies. Even the slightest discrepancy can lead to loans being frozen.

That’s another part of the process that Committee Chair Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander is trying to fix.

“You can just take the information you’ve already given to the IRS and let the education department use that,” he said. 

Alexander is hoping to include the reforms in a larger higher education bill due for a vote later this year.  

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