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Sens. Jones, Alexander introduce bill to reform federal student aid application

Monday, Senator Doug Jones, D-Alabama, and Senator Lamar Alexander, R-Tennessee, have announced legislation that would reduce and simplify the process of applying for federal student aid to help pay for college.

Their bipartisan proposal was included in a broader package of higher education reforms introduced by Sen. Alexander called the Student Aid Improvement Act of 2019.

The senators’ proposal would reduce the number of questions on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) from 108 to between 17 and 30.

“Aside from college applications, this may be the most important form a student and their family complete before heading off to school,” Sen. Jones said. “As a father with three children who went to college, I know firsthand how difficult and frustrating this form can be. It’s no wonder so many students who might qualify for aid are intimidated from even applying. With the reforms Senator Alexander and I are proposing, we hope to fundamentally change this process and make it easier for future students to access funding that will make their dream of attaining a degree possible.”

“There are 20 million families, including 400,000 in Tennessee, that fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, every year,” said Sen. Alexander who chairs the HELP Committee. “Tennessee’s former Governor, Bill Haslam, told me it’s the single biggest impediment to more students enrolling in Tennessee Promise, our state’s free, two year college program,” Alexander said. “After five years of bipartisan work, it’s time for Congress to finally make it easier for those families to apply for federal financial aid by simplifying the 108-question FAFSA to just 17-30 questions.”

A student has to fill out the FAFSA to receive federal student loans, grants, and work-study opportunities. Some colleges also use it to determine scholarship recipients. The proposal would not impact the FAFSA application for the upcoming 2020-2021 school year, which is available Tuesday, October 1.

According to Alabama Possible, last year Alabama high school graduates left $57.5 million in federal aid dollars on the table by not submitting a FAFSA application. Only 49.9 percent of students even completed the form.

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Senator Jones’ state offices will host FAFSA workshops throughout the state for constituents who have questions about how to fill out the form.

Jones is a member of the Senate HELP Committee.

Jones faces re-election in 2020. He presently has no Democratic Primary challenger; but six Republicans are campaigning to the be the GOP nominee to face Jones in the general election.

Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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