NASFAA President to Testify Before Congress on Balancing FAFSA Simplification and Accuracy

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Head of financial aid administrators’ association testifies on how to streamline the financial aid application, ensure program integrity, and accurately target federal student aid funds.

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By eliminating irrelevant and unnecessary questions and fully utilizing technology and expanding federal and state data-sharing, lawmakers could eliminate a number of the current application questions, making the process much easier for all students—but particularly those with the lowest income.

Today at 10:00 am ET Justin Draeger, president and CEO of the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA), will testify in a U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions hearing on "Reauthorizing the Higher Education Act: Examining Proposals to Simplify the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)."

The federal student aid programs were developed to ensure that the inability to pay wouldn’t prevent qualified students from pursuing a higher education. But last year, an estimated $2.3 billion in federal financial aid grants went unclaimed because eligible class of 2017 high school graduates failed to complete and submit the FAFSA.

NASFAA has long been interested in making the FAFSA and the overall application process more efficient and simple for students and families—while ensuring the limited funds are targeted to those who truly need financial aid. In this morning’s hearing, Draeger will share testimony and answer questions about how, by eliminating irrelevant and unnecessary questions and fully utilizing technology and expanding federal and state data-sharing, lawmakers could eliminate a number of the current application questions, making the process much easier for all students—but particularly those with the lowest income.

"Over the years, the federal government has grappled with the simplification versus accuracy tradeoff, sometimes adding questions to the FAFSA to try to achieve more specificity about a family’s circumstances, and in other years taking away questions that were so complex they were deterring some students and families from even completing the form,” states Draeger in his prepared testimony. “Today, the average completion time is approximately 31 minutes... a vast improvement from the time it took to fill out the form when it was first developed. ...Even with such improvements, we can still do better.”

NASFAA offers the following recommendations for Congress as lawmakers go about reauthorizing the Higher Education Act and take steps to simplify the process of applying for federal student financial aid:

  • With today’s technology we no longer need to make the tradeoff between simplification and accuracy, as we’ve had to do in the past.
  • NASFAA supports a three-level application process, bolstered by the Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) Data Retrieval Tool (DRT) and made possible by the recent move to using prior-prior year (PPY) income information on the FAFSA.
  • The federal government should rely on existing databases of information where applicants have already gone through certain federal-means tested benefit application processes to expedite the application process for low-income students.
  • Most of the financial aid application information can be gathered through the tax system; students and families with complicated financial circumstances would just have a slightly more complicated application.

A live webcast of the hearing will be made available. For additional questions about NASFAA’s testimony, or to schedule an interview, please email NASFAA Director of Communications Erin Powers.

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