Congress should simplify federal college aid applications, and students whose families earn $25,000 or less should be automatically eligible for the maximum Pell Grant, a congressionally created panel recommended last week.
The Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance says that by simplifying the Free Application for Federal Student Aid form, which is now eight pages long and contains more than 100 questions, federal lawmakers would make higher education accessible to more students.
“To answer just three of these questions, students must complete three additional worksheets with nearly 40 additional questions,” the report says.
The report also warns against sending out mixed messages to students: For instance, while students are encouraged to apply early for college admission, they cannot fill out the FAFSA form before Jan. 1. The current system, the report says, “encourages students to apply to college without knowing with any certainty if they can even afford it.”
Republican leaders of the House Education and the Workforce Committee said they would ask for the report to be rewritten because it does not recommend how its proposals would be paid for.
“The advisory committee isn’t being paid simply to provide a wish list,” Rep. John A. Boehner, D-Ohio, the chairman of the committee, said in a statement.
House Democrats said they would call for changes based on the report.
“You shouldn’t need a Ph.D. or H&R Block to complete these forms,” said Rep. Rahm Emanuel, D-Ill.
A version of this article appeared in the February 02, 2005 edition of Education Week