September 14, 2015

Kaine Applauds Obama Administration Announcement On Simplified Financial Aid Process

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Tim Kaine released the following statement after the Obama Administration announced that the U.S. Department of Education will begin using prior-prior year data for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) in the next academic year. President Obama formally unveiled the changes at a town hall event with high school students in Iowa today:

“Ensuring college is affordable and increasing the amount of information is imperative to educating our workforce for the 21st century,” said Kaine. “I was glad to see that the Department of Education has chosen to let students use prior-prior year data when filling out FAFSA applications as this will help speed up the application process, reduce the burden of verification for documenting financial aid eligibility and empower consumers. I applaud the Administration for taking the right step to improve a disjointed process; it will help students and their families make informed decisions when it comes to postsecondary options.”

Earlier this year, Kaine joined Senator Tammy Baldwin and others in sending a letter to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to urge him to use his authority to allow the use of data from the second preceding tax year, also known as “prior-prior year” data when students are filling out the FAFSA in applying to college or university. Currently, many students across the country are receiving their college admissions letters without the accompanying financial aid award information they need to compare college options and costs. Under the new federal aid process, students will be allowed to submit their FAFSA as early as October for the school year beginning the following summer or fall. Currently, students are forced to wait until January.

Most families’ incomes do not change significantly from year-to-year, yet the current process forces applicants to wait until January 1 of each year—far after many college application deadlines—to complete the FAFSA in the same year they plan to enroll using the prior year’s tax data. When the FAFSA becomes available, many students and their families struggle to obtain tax documents quickly enough for dozens of local, state and private grant deadlines. The short window provided for filing taxes before filling out the FAFSA places students and families in a difficult situation with few good options.

Under their authority, the Department can allow students to use prior-prior year data, which is more likely to be on file and much easier to import directly into the FAFSA. This will speed up the application process and help reduce the burden of verification for documenting their financial situation and aid eligibility. Prior-prior year data is also not likely to have a significant effect on students’ financial aid awards.  Financial aid administrators, admissions officers, state grant agencies, and college access programs also strongly support using this data.

Kaine is also a cosponsor of the Simplifying Financial Aid for Students Act of 2015 which would base eligibility for federal student loans and grants on “prior-prior” year tax data to help simplify the FAFSA process, allow students to apply earlier for aid, facilitate a better alignment of the aid application process and provide more time for students to evaluate awards and make informed decisions about the net costs of college.