Sen. Brown pushes to simplify FAFSA process

Free Application for Federal Student Aid 

Sarah Matthews

President Obama announced plans to simplify the Free Application For Federal Student Aid process on Monday, Sept. 14 after U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and 30 of his Senate colleagues urged the administration to do so.

Previously, the FAFSA form required students to wait until January, but the new initiative, which will go into effect for students seeking financial aid for the 2017 to 2018 school year, will allow students to complete the form three months earlier.

Furthermore, students will have the option to complete the form before tax season by electronically retrieving tax information from the “prior prior” tax year. Allowing students to apply earlier for aid will better their chances of qualifying for more money because some states award aid on a first-come, first-served basis.

“Students can get at the front of the line for financial aid when more is available, rather than the back of the line when we have a state legislature that shortchanges higher ed,” Brown said.

According to a press release from Brown, approximately two million students enrolled in college are eligible for a Pell Grant, but never applied for financial aid. Some students forego applying to college altogether because they’re unaware federal aid is available.  

“This will guide students to give more options and find more dollars to help them defray college costs,” Brown said.

Brown said there was a time when higher education was more efficient, so going to college didn’t require accumulating massive amounts of debt.

“My wife was the first in her family to go to college,” he said. “She went to Kent State and graduated with a little bit more than $1,000 in debt. She went for four years and that’s all the debt she racked up 35 years ago. In those days the state legislature actually cared about higher ed and helped to fund it.”

Brown said he wants every student to have every opportunity for financial aid, whether they choose to attend trade school, community college or a four-year institution.

“I want students to have every possible option,” he said. “I don’t want just rich kids to have every option. I want all of American kids to have every option and that’s why dealing with student financial aid is so important for the future of this country.”

Brown is also a co-sponsor on the Simplifying Financial Aid for Students Act of 2015. In addition to basing eligibility for federal student loans and grants on “prior prior” year tax data, the legislation would return the auto-zero EFC income threshold from $23,000 to $30,000 for both dependent and independent students.  

Brown said President Beverly Warren and Kent State as whole want students to be able to graduate with the lowest debt possible.

“I know the university cares about that, and I know that the administrators and the faculty want to work with students to keep their debt down, but it’s partly the responsibility of the federal government and state government to do their jobs better,” he said.

While Brown recognizes making college more affordable is a concern for both sides of the aisle, he doesn’t believe some politicians are working for student’s best interest.

“I think most of society regardless of the political party believes that kids should have these options,” Brown said. “I just know that some Tea Party Republicans in Columbus would rather give tax cuts to their big contributors rather than funding education at Kent State for working class kids like my wife was.”

Contact Sarah Matthews at [email protected].