Bill introduced by Alexander, Bennet, Burr, Booker, Isakson, King will simplify financial aid application for 20 million Americans who fill it out each year
Senators Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) with Senators Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), and Angus King (I- Maine) introduced the FAST Act yesterday, a bill to simplify the process of applying for and receiving federal financial aid to attend college, allow year-round use of Pell Grants, discourage over-borrowing and simplify repayments.
The bill would reduce to a single postcard—called the “Student Aid Short Form”—the questions 20 million Americans must answer to apply for federal financial aid each year and inform high school students in their junior year of the amount they’ll receive in federal aid to help pay for college. It would also address the problem of some students borrowing too much money, and simplify the options students have to repay their federal loans. The act also streamlines federal grant and loan programs to better serve more students more effectively.
“Every year, millions of students are discouraged from applying for financial aid by an unnecessarily complicated, 108-question form. This bill would cut those questions down to two, and help families get aid information sooner, while protecting taxpayers from lending more money to students than they’re able to repay,” Senator Alexander said.
The senators said that they want to be certain that the short form sends taxpayer dollars solely to those eligible, and so would reduce the form to as close to two questions as possible without creating an opportunity for fraud or abuse.
The Financial Aid Simplification and Transparency Act, or FAST Act, would simplify the federal financial aid process by:
- Eliminating the Free Application for Financial Student Aid, or FAFSA: The bill would reduce the 10-page form to a postcard that would ask just two questions: What is your family size? And, what was your household income two years ago?
- Telling families early in the process of what the federal government will provide them in a grant and loan. The bill would create a look-up table to allow students in their junior year of high school to see how much in federal aid they are eligible for as they are start to look at colleges.
- Streamlining the federal grant and loan programs. The bill would combine two federal grant programs into one Pell grant program and reduce the six different federal loan programs into three: one undergraduate loan program, one graduate loan program, and one parent loan program.
- Enabling students to use Pell grants in a more flexible manner. The bill would restore year-round Pell grant availability and provide flexibility so students can study at their own pace. Both provisions would enable them to complete college sooner.
- Discouraging over-borrowing. The bill would limit the amount a student is able to borrow based on enrollment. For example, a part-time student would be able to take out a part-time loan only.
- Simplifying repayment options. The bill would streamline existing repayment programs and create two simple plans, an income based plan and a 10-year repayment plan.