Going to college is important–and expensive. Thanks to a combination of decreased public funding and inflation, the cost has been steadily rising. While the cost of attendance in Texas is lower than the national average, it is getting more expensive as well. This often makes attending college a challenge for lower-income students.
Fortunately, that’s where Austin Democratic Congressman Lloyd Doggett comes in. This week, he introduced the Simplifying Financial Aid for Students Act of 2015 in the House, a bill that is intended to make the process of applying for federal student aid easier and more efficient. This bill would help make it easier for millions of students across the country to access federal financial aid, and it’s especially important for Texas. Currently, 85% of direct student financial aid in Texas comes from federal sources. (Only 6% comes from the state, because the Lege has continued to prioritize pretty much everything else over higher education.)
The Federal Application for Free Student Aid (FAFSA) is the form that students must fill out in order to be considered for federal student aid. It’s lengthy and complicated, and requires current year tax information, which means many students don’t learn how much aid they’ll receive until very late in the college application process. As Doggett’s office explained in a statement:
- “The College Board estimates that 2.3 million prospective students do not file a FAFSA, but would qualify for federal student aid if they did apply. To meet most school and state aid deadlines, students must send in the FAFSA form before they (or their parents) have received their W2s or filed their taxes for the prior year. The current system causes delays, which result in a delay in financial aid award notification and make college less affordable for some.”
Doggett’s new bill would instead “base eligibility for federal student loans and grants on ‘prior-prior’ year tax data which will help simplify the FAFSA process, allow students to apply earlier for aid, facilitate a better alignment of the aid application process, and provide more time for students to evaluate awards and make informed decisions about the net costs of college.”
In addition, the bill would “return the Expected Family Contribution (EFC) income threshold from $23,000 to $30,000. This return will ensure families with incomes of $30,000 or less will again receive the maximum Pell grant and do more to provide students the financial means to go to college.”
In a statement, Rep. Doggett emphasized the importance of improving access to higher education for students who need it most (emphasis added):
“The complexity of applying for student financial assistance remains a barrier to higher education. Over 2 million perspective students eligible for assistance do not file an application. Fix FAFSA, remove the barrier to success, assist disadvantaged students to gain the advantage of higher education and to work their way into the middle class.”
Doggett’s sentiments were echoed by Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ), who sponsored the companion student aid bill in the Senate (emphasis added):
“It is vital that we work to reduce the burden of the financial aid process because it should never be easier to finance a car or a home than to finance a long-term investment in a young person’s education. The Simplifying Financial Aid for Students Act reforms and streamlines the FAFSA application process so students and their families can more easily get the aid they need and deserve.”
While Texas’ highest-profile member of Congress is doing his darndest to ensure Texans don’t have pap smears or financial protections (when he’s not too busy cozying up to Donald Trump), it’s refreshing to see one of our Congressional contingent working in favor of Texans’ best interests for a change. It’s elected officials like Lloyd Doggett who remind us of how much good can be done in government when looking out for your constituents is your primary goal.