Fixing the Fafsa, a Popular Idea, Makes Its Way to Congress

A two-question application for federal student aid—that’s the premise behind proposed legislation from two U.S. senators who hope a streamlined form will encourage more students, especially those from lower-income backgrounds, to apply for student aid.

In a news conference on Thursday, Sen. Lamar Alexander, Republican of Tennessee, and Sen. Michael F. Bennet, Democrat of Colorado, outlined their bill to reduce the current, 108-question Free Application for Federal Student Aid to just two inquiries that would fit on a postcard.

While their proposal may seem radical, the idea of simplifying the notoriously complicated form, known as the Fafsa, is far from revolutionary.

After gaining prominence in higher education, the concept has found support on both sides of the political aisle. For conservatives, a two-question form would cut red tape and cumbersome bureaucracy. For liberals, a streamlined application would remove a major hurdle for low-income students who want to attend college but are discouraged by the current Fafsa’s complexity and who thus forgo federal aid and possibly an education.

“This will be one of the more substantial pieces of legislation on higher education in a while, in terms of the numbers of students it affects and the number of policy proposals put in place,” said Robert Kelchen, an assistant professor of higher education at Seton Hall University. <Read more.>

Via Dan Bauman, The Chronicle of Higher Education.