December 20, 2018

Senate Passes Whitehouse, Alexander, Murray, Gardner Bill That Allows Families to Answer 22 FAFSA Questions With Just One Click

Bipartisan bill makes it easier for students and families to complete tax information on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid

Washington, DC — The United States Senate last night passed bipartisan legislation introduced by Senate education committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Senator Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) that will allow the nearly 20 million students that complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) each year to answer at least 11 and up to 22 questions on the form with just one click.

The bill will allow students to have the IRS securely send the Department of Education their federal tax information with one click. The bill will also help simplify the process for getting through income-driven repayment applications and the student aid “verification” process. Now that the Senate has passed the legislation, it will head to the U.S. House of Representatives.

“The former president of Southwest Community College in Memphis once told me he believes that he loses 1,500 students each semester because of the complexity of the FAFSA,” said Alexander. “Over and over families have asked me, ‘I’ve already given most of this information to the federal government when I paid my taxes, why do I have to do it again—once is enough.’ This legislation will make completing the complicated FAFSA much easier for students and families—allowing them to answer up to 22 questions on the form with one simple click, while securing the applicant’s data. It is my hope that the U.S. House of Representatives swiftly passes this legislation.”

“Our nation’s outdated and overly complicated financial aid system is forcing students and student loan borrowers to jump through too many hoops to access federal financial aid, verify the tax returns they’ve already filled out, or get help if they’re struggling to pay their student loans,” said Murray. “I’m pleased to work with my colleagues on this needed fix to federal financial aid, and I urge the House to pass this quickly so students and borrowers are able navigate their financial aid through a streamlined and efficient process.”

“Putting prospective college students and their families through endless paperwork is more than an annoyance.  Needlessly complicated forms like the FAFSA are a real obstacle to Rhode Island students continuing their education,” said Whitehouse.  “I’m happy to join Sen. Alexander to introduce this legislation. It’s a smart way to reduce the burden of the FAFSA with a simple, secure online process.”

“Ensuring students are able to complete their FAFSA forms each year is crucial to continuing their education,” said Senator Gardner. “This bipartisan legislation makes the complex process easier for students and their parents so that no student has to miss out on educational opportunities because completing their forms was made more difficult than it needed to be.”

Last month, Alexander and U.S. Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos visited Sevier County High School to show students and local guidance counselors how to use the new phone application that makes it easier for student to apply for federal and state financial aid.

The Faster Access to Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) Act will make FAFSA completion easier and more secure for nearly 20 million students by:

  • Improving and securing the way individuals’ IRS tax information is sent to the Department of Education.
  • Turning a 7-click process into a single click process – that answers at least 11 and up to 22 questions – to transfer IRS tax filling data to the Department of Education.
  • Allowing 8 to 9 million more FAFSA filers to use their existing IRS tax filing information.
  • Reducing the burdensome verification processes for students and parents filing for aid.
  • Automating the annual process for 7 million borrowers in income driven repayment to recertify their income and remain in their repayment plan.

Background on FAFSA:

  • Currently 54% of FAFSAs are filed with information received from the IRS by parents or students using the Data Retrieval Tool to request and transfer tax information from the IRS to the Department of Education.
  • The current process for students or parents to transfer tax information to the FAFSA requires the applicant to give direct permission to the IRS to send tax information to ED.  This requires the applicant to jump from FAFSA website to IRS website and back to ED website which takes a total of 7 clicks.
  • For 37% of FAFSAs, either the student or the parent does not file taxes. The new process will allow the IRS to confirm that those students or parents have not filed.

Background on Income Driven Repayment:

  • Almost a third of borrowers in repayment on federal student loans are in an income-driven repayment program.
  • These programs require that borrowers certify their income on an annual basis. If borrowers fail to complete this process, they are automatically reentered into standard 10 year repayment.
  • Each year 19 percent of borrowers in IDR fail to recertify their income on-time, resulting in payment spikes and interest capitalization for approximately 1.3 million borrowers.



Press Contact

Meaghan McCabe, (202) 224-2921