Chiefs for Change recently sent the following letter to congressional leaders.
Dear Congressional Leaders,
Current trends in college enrollment are deeply concerning and, without federal action, could contribute to an undereducated, underskilled workforce. In fall 2020, college enrollment among incoming freshmen decreased 16.1 percent nationally. The cost of attending college is a major obstacle for many families, and economic hardship related to the COVID-19 pandemic has put college even further out of reach.
To help students pay for higher education, the federal government provides more than $120 billion in financial aid each year, but the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, is too long and too complicated. FAFSA completions are down significantly compared to the last academic year. Congress must act now to simplify the FAFSA and make it easier for more students to access the financial aid they need for college.
As a bipartisan network of state and district education leaders who oversee systems that collectively serve more than 7 million students, we urge Congress to pass the FAFSA Simplification Act of 2019.
Our recent report, Change the FAFSA to Change the Future, details the need for federal action to simplify the FAFSA. The FAFSA Simplification Act of 2019, introduced by Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Doug Jones (D-AL), simplifies the form by eliminating questions and changing the Pell Grant eligibility formula to base the award amount solely on adjusted gross income and family size, rather than the longer needs analysis formula currently used. We support the provisions outlined in the FAFSA Simplification Act, as they streamline the current process. In addition to the changes in the FAFSA Simplification Act, any efforts to simplify the FAFSA should allow students who receive certain means-tested benefits, such as Medicaid and government food assistance, to automatically qualify for maximum Pell Grants.
Millions of students do not file the FAFSA each year, leaving $3.4 billion of federal financial aid on the table. We owe it to our students to turn these dollars into opportunities. Our chiefs urge lawmakers to act quickly to approve the FAFSA Simplification Act of 2019. We would welcome the opportunity to speak with you about how we can work together to remove barriers and connect students with funding for their futures.