GAO Also Agrees to Investigate Ed Dept. Delayed & Faulty FAFSA Reform Rollout

WASHINGTON, D.C. – As colleges and students grapple with a botched student aid rollout, U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) has joined an effort to reverse recent changes to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) process that could reduce or even eliminate access to need-based student aid for farm families and small business owners.

Hyde-Smith is cosponsoring the bipartisan Family Farm and Small Business Exemption Act (S.1237), which would restore an exemption for certain family farms and small businesses under the FASFA.  Additionally, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has agreed to investigate the Biden administration’s error-filled revamp of the FAFSA program, an action requested by Hyde-Smith and others last week.

“The Department of Education’s financial aid application process was supposed to be simplified, but the administration instead has only made things more confusing and, in the case for farm families and small business owners, patently unfair,” said Hyde-Smith, who serves on the Senate Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Subcommittee.

“As it stands, farm families with children who need federal financial aid will qualify for a lot less help, which could make all the difference in whether they can afford to continue their studies.  We need to restore the farm exemption as soon as possible,” the Senator said.

Prior to recent changes made to FAFSA, the net worth of these family farms and small businesses were excluded as assets when calculating a student’s financial need to determine federal student aid eligibility. Beginning with the 2024-2025 academic year, the net worth of these farms and businesses will be treated as an asset and therefore included in the calculation. S.1237, introduced by U.S. Senators Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) and Jon Tester (D-Mont.), would restore the exemption to exclude such net worth from the calculation.

An analysis by Iowa College Aid found that currently, a farm family with an income of $60,000 and a farm of median value would be expected to contribute $7,626 annually toward their child’s education.  Under the new formula, that same family would be expected to contribute $41,056, and some families would be excluded from aid altogether.

Mississippi universities, colleges, community colleges, and guidance counselors will be affected by ongoing delays by the U.S. Department of Education delivery of FAFSA forms.  The Biden administration on Tuesday announced that it will delay the transmission of FAFSA forms to colleges and universities for at least another month, well behind the slated January delivery.  These delays could create the real likelihood that many students could be forced to forego college because they cannot choose a school without knowing their eligibility for student aid.

Republicans on the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee established a hotline to encourage students, families, and school officials to provide feedback on their experiences with the new FAFSA program and how it has impacted their college decisions for next year.  Visit: https://www.help.senate.gov/FAFSA.