House Passes DelBene's Bicameral, Bipartisan FAFSA Act to Help Students Attend and Pay for College
Congresswoman Suzan DelBene (WA-01) is pleased to announce the passage of her legislation to ease the process of applying for federal financial aid for students in Washington state and nationwide – the Faster Access for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) Act. The bill passed in the House of Representatives as part of the Future Act.
DelBene’s legislation, which has a companion bill introduced in the Senate by HELP Committee Chair and Ranking Member Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Patty Murray (D-WA), would make FAFSA application completion easier and more secure for nearly 20 million students. Currently, millions of dollars in grants to attend college are being left on the table due to the burdensome process of filling out the FAFSA. This is especially true in Washington state, which is ranked 48th in the nation in FAFSA completion among high school seniors.
Currently, 54 percent of FAFSA applications are filed using information obtained by parents and students from the IRS using a third-party Data Retrieval Tool to transfer that information to the Department of Education. This requires filers to give direct permission to the IRS each time they wish to send income information to the Department of Education. With one-third of borrowers in an income-driven repayment program (which requires the borrower to update their income information annually), this outdated process can be difficult and time-consuming and causes far too many students who need assistance the most to fall through the cracks. This is especially apparent in the fact that 19 percent of borrowers in income-driven repayment fail to update their income on time, resulting in their automatic entry into a standard 10-year repayment plan. This causes one-third of those borrowers to go into hardship-related forbearance or deferment.
“The current system of data-sharing for those filing for student loans is unnecessarily burdensome, creating hurdles that prevent borrowers from successfully paying back their student loans,” said Rep. DelBene. “The FAFSA Act will lessen the burden for millions of parents and students, making applying and repaying federal loans what it is was supposed to be: an easier process that promotes, rather than prevents, students from pursuing higher education. I’m pleased that my colleagues in the House passed this critical legislation, and I look forward to continuing the conversation back in the Senate.”
“This bipartisan deal is a win-win for more than 500,000 students and families across Washington state,” said Senator Murray. “I’m glad that we were able to reach an agreement on the FAFSA Act that simplifies the financial aid process in order to make it easier for more students to apply for federal student aid. I’m proud that in addition to streamlining FAFSA, this deal also includes the FUTURE Act, which will provide minority-serving institutions, like our tribal colleges and HBCUs, with critical permanent funding. I’m pleased we were able to address the concerns of my House colleagues so we can get this bill to the President’s desk without further delay, and I’m hopeful that we can continue this bipartisan progress and pass a comprehensive, bipartisan HEA reauthorization that addresses all of the challenges facing students today.”
The FAFSA Act will also secure the transfer of tax and income data from the IRS to the Department of Education by eliminating the need for third-party retrieval tools and allow the IRS to send borrower data directly to the Department of Education. This reduces the burdensome verification process for parents and students filing for aid. The FAFSA Act will also allow borrowers to automate the annual process of updating income information for those in income-driven repayment plans, ensuring that borrowers will not be defaulted into standard repayment plans.
DelBene first introduced the FAFSA Act in the 115th Congress. She is a member of the Ways and Means Committee and Vice-Chair of the New Democrat Coalition.