The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee on Thursday outlined how Congress could seek to further simplify the FAFSA while still providing institutions of higher education with the data they need to determine aid, during a largely bipartisan hearing at a time when agreement across the aisle is becoming less common.
The hearing comes toward the end of the session for the 116th Congress and follows up on the panel’s most recent effort to reauthorize the Higher Education Act (HEA), which followed bipartisan discussions on FAFSA simplification. The effort to complete a full reauthorization of HEA will not come to fruition this session and future prospects of overhauling the law — which could serve as a vehicle to simplify the FAFSA — remain unclear.
The committee heard from five expert witnesses, who each highlighted the obstacles that the excessive questions pose for students and families, especially in light of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Rachelle Feldman, associate provost and director of scholarships and student aid at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, emphasized how simplification would benefit students with unique family circumstances, such as those in which the student is supported by grandparents or other guardians, or families with varying forms of employment.