After Delayed Rollout, U.S. Education Dept. Fails to Follow Law to Simplify College Aid Process

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) today joined a bicameral request for a Government Accountability Office (GAO) investigation into the Biden administration’s failure to properly implement the new Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) program, delaying students and families’ access to crucial financial aid for college.  

Hyde-Smith is among 17 Senators and 11 Representatives who signed a letter to GAO Comptroller General Gene Dodaro seeking the investigation.  The letter was led by U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-La.), ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, and House Education and the Workforce Committee Chair Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.).

“Congress passed the FAFSA Simplification Act in 2020 to streamline the application and calculations for federal student aid, reducing the number of questions from more than 100 to as few as 18 for many applicants,” the lawmakers wrote.  “However, repeated delays from the Department of Education in rolling out the new FAFSA have left students and schools in limbo for the upcoming school year.”

Despite having three years to prepare for the FAFSA rollout, U.S. Department of Education only made the application available for borrowers for 30 minutes on December 30 before taking it down and then making it live for only one additional hour on December 31.  The application was only accessible for sporadic periods until it became fully live on January 6, days after the deadline set by Congress in the FAFSA Simplification Act.   

“All these challenges and delays may cause some students—particularly low-income students who are most dependent on federal aid—to give up and not pursue postsecondary education,” the lawmakers wrote.

The lawmakers also asked GAO to determine whether the Department of Education is providing students and schools with sufficient information and guidance on the new FAFSA form and process because the agency’s delays and snags have forced high school counselors to postpone financial aid information sessions.  Additionally, these setbacks mean colleges cannot provide students with financial aid offers, giving students less time and less information to compare financial aid packages and choose the best college option.   

Read the signed letter to Dodaro here.