Your Education Road Map

Politics K-12®

ESSA. Congress. State chiefs. School spending. Elections. Education Week reporters keep watch on education policy and politics in the nation’s capital and in the states. Read more from this blog.


What the FAFSA Simplification Trump Signed Means for Students

By Evie Blad — December 19, 2019 5 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

A change to the FAFSA included in a new higher education bill will eliminate as many as 22 questions for students filling out the lengthy, 108-question student aid form.

This FAFSA simplification was included in the FUTURE Act, a bipartisan bill President Donald Trump signed into law Thursday that also provides permanent funding for historically black colleges and universities and other minority serving institutions.

And now that the bill has become law, Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., can take a break to ice his shoulder, which is surely sore from repeatedly holding up the Free Application for Student Aid as a symbol of the need for change. Alexander, the chairman of the Senate education committee, has been one of the most visible champions of FAFSA simplification. But lawmakers in both parties, including Sen. Doug Jones, D-Ala., called for an update because they viewed the cumbersome process of completing the document as a barrier for students hoping to enroll in—and complete—college. It’s a relatively small, wonky change that will nonetheless make a big difference, they’ve argued.

What will change in the FAFSA? The FUTURE Act (full name: Fostering Undergraduate Talent by Unlocking Resources for Education Act) eliminates the need for student aid applicants to provide the same information twice to two separate federal agencies. The bill allows the U.S. Department of Education and the Internal Revenue Service to share information already included on a family’s or individual’s tax returns. Instead of filling in all of that data, applicants can just make one click on the online form to permit information sharing. It will also streamline the process millions of applicants use to verify that they don’t file tax returns.

Those changes could be a big deal for students themselves and for K-12 schools that are interested in helping them chart a post-college path. They will also reduce burdens for college and universities that help students complete the FAFSA annually to renew aid, Alexander said in a statement.

“Last week, the president of Lane College —one of six HBCUs in Tennessee—told me that he has three staff members who spend a significant amount of time helping the 40 percent of Lane College students who are currently selected for verification each year,” he said. “This legislation would greatly reduce that burden on his students and their families and allow the staff to spend their time counseling students about academics or jobs, instead of helping them fill out a form.”

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos also praised the change.

“The FUTURE Act will have a lasting impact on students and their families,” she said in a statement.

And now, a walk down memory lane ...

Of course, many applicants fill out the FAFSA online, or even on their phones. But displaying the lengthy paper form during public appearances has become one of Alexander’s trademarks in recent years. Unfortunately, Politics K-12 doesn’t have a big budget to buy the rights to popular songs. But we recommend you listen to something inspirational while looking through the following collection of photos featuring Alexander and the FAFSA.

A big moment: This photo from Sen. Alexander’s Twitter account shows him holding up the FAFSA in the Oval Office today after President Trump signed the bill. He’s joined by Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., the ranking member on the House education committee; Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C.; Trump’s daughter and aide, Ivanka Trump; and DeVos.

On the go: In this photo from the U.S. Department of Education’s Flickr account, Alexander holds up the FAFSA while touring a Knoxville, Tenn., high school with DeVos in 2018.

With Ivanka Trump:

In his office:

On the Senate floor:

In Memphis:

While talking with high school students:

With a local TV reporter:

In GIF format:

And once more for old times’ sake: Alexander help up the form in this video he shared today to share the news that the FUTURE Act is now law.

Photo: Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., shows the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form, during an interview with the Associated Press in 2014. --AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta

Follow us on Twitter @PoliticsK12. And follow the Politics K-12 reporters @EvieBlad @Daarel and @AndrewUjifusa.

Related Tags:

Commenting has been disabled on effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Teaching Webinar
6 Key Trends in Teaching and Learning
As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and a return to the classroom for many—we come better prepared, but questions remain. How will the last year impact teaching and learning this school
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
School & District Management Webinar
Ensuring Continuity of Learning: How to Prepare for the Next Disruption
Across the country, K-12 schools and districts are, again, considering how to ensure effective continuity of learning in the face of emerging COVID variants, politicized debates, and more. Learn from Alexandria City Public Schools superintendent
Content provided by Class
Teaching Profession Live Online Discussion What Have We Learned From Teachers During the Pandemic?
University of California, Santa Cruz, researcher Lora Bartlett and her colleagues spent months studying how the pandemic affected classroom teachers. We will discuss the takeaways from her research not only for teachers, but also for

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Federal White House Launches Hispanic Education Initiative Led by Miguel Cardona
President Joe Biden said his administration intends to address the "systemic causes" of educational disparities faced by Hispanic students.
2 min read
Education Secretary Miguel Cardona writes down and draws positive affirmations on poster board with students during his visit to P.S. 5 Port Morris, a Bronx elementary school, Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2021 in New York.
U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona visits students in New York City at P.S. 5 Port Morris, a Bronx elementary school in the Bronx last month.
Brittainy Newman/AP
Federal Feds Add Florida to List of States Under Investigation Over Restrictions on Mask Mandates
The Education Department told the state Sept. 10 it will probe whether its mask rule is violating the rights of students with disabilities.
3 min read
Surrounded by lawmakers, Florida Gov.Ron DeSantis speaks at the end of a legislative session on April 30, 2021, in Tallahassee, Fla.
Surrounded by lawmakers, Florida Gov.Ron DeSantis speaks at the end of a legislative session on April 30, 2021, in Tallahassee, Fla.
Wilfredo Lee/AP
Federal How Biden Will Mandate Teacher Vaccines, Testing in Some States That Don't Require Them
President Joe Biden's COVID-19 plan will create new teacher vaccination and testing requirements in some states through worker safety rules.
4 min read
Nurse Sara Muela, left, administers the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine to educator Rebecca Titus at a vaccination site setup for teachers and school staff at the Berks County Intermediate Unit in Reading, Pa., on March 15, 2021.
Nurse Sara Muela administers a COVID-19 vaccine to educator Rebecca Titus at a vaccination site for at the Berks County Intermediate Unit in Reading, Pa.
Matt Rourke/AP
Federal Biden Pushes Schools to Expand COVID-19 Testing, Get More Teachers Vaccinated
President Joe Biden set teacher vaccine requirements for federally operated schools as part of a new effort to drive down COVID's spread.
7 min read
President Joe Biden speaks in the State Dining Room at the White House, Thursday, Sept. 9, 2021, in Washington. Biden is announcing sweeping new federal vaccine requirements affecting as many as 100 million Americans in an all-out effort to increase COVID-19 vaccinations and curb the surging delta variant.
President Joe Biden in a speech from the White House announces sweeping new federal vaccine requirements and other efforts in an renewed effort to stem the COVID-19 pandemic.
Andrew Harnik/AP