by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Peyton Lofton writes for the Washington Examiner about one way to address the challenge of high college costs.
With well over 100 questions, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, commonly known as the FAFSA, is almost as long and stressful as the SAT. This is a problem: It shouldn’t be harder to pay for college than it is to get admitted.
Last week, Sens. Lamar Alexander and Doug Jones announced their plan to relieve families of this stress. Their bipartisan bill aims to significantly streamline the process of receiving federal grants and loans. The bill presents a rare opportunity for both parties to come together and increase accessibility to higher education.
FAFSA is a Department of Education program that provides over $100 billion in grants and loans annually to 13 million students demonstrating financial need. This program is particularly helpful today, as the average cost of a four-year college education is well over $100,000, and tuition has risen eight times faster than wages since 1989. This means that for many students, FAFSA is the only reason they can afford to go to college.
Despite it playing such a crucial role in affordability, only 44% of high school seniors complete the FAFSA prior to graduating. As a result, up to $24 billion in financial aid is left unclaimed each year. In a time where the average personal student loan debt is over $37,000, American students cannot afford to miss out on this aid.
The National College Access Network found that low-income students are more likely not to complete a FAFSA than their peers. The disproportionate effect on low-income students is particularly concerning as they stand to gain the most from the program.