By Vicki Needham - 08/19/14 04:33 PM EDT
Nearly a dozen Senate Democrats on Tuesday asked the Obama administration to provide more information to families about higher education tax credits to reach the goal of making college more accessible and affordable.
Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, along with 10 Democrats and one Independent senator, asked the Education and Treasury departments to create an easy-to-understand guide about the education tax benefits that are available through the federal government.
"That is why we need to make sure that they know about all of the tools available, beyond student loans, to help pay for college — including savings plans, tax credits and tax deductions."
Additionally, they asked that an estimate of education tax benefits be made available through the federal student aid application process (FAFSA).
They said a guide could be distributed to parents, prospective students, school counselors, financial aid administrators, tax preparers and college admission counselors.
A 2012 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report showed that one in six tax filers failed to take the maximum higher education tax benefit available to them.
“Increasing awareness of available tax incentives will help students and families plan for college and hopefully reduce the amount of student loans that individuals need to take out,” they wrote.
To improve the coordination of all student aid, they asked for an estimate of the American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC) that applicants could receive based on the tax information they provide on the FAFSA.
"We also ask that students be given additional information on the interaction of the AOTC and other student aid, such as Pell and institutional aid, so they can maximize benefits," they wrote.
The letter is signed by Sens. Tammy Baldwin (Wis.), Michael Bennet (Colo.), Bob Casey (Pa.), Christopher Coons (Del.), Mazie Hirono (Hawaii), Angus King (I-Maine), Carl Levin (Mich.), Jack Reed (R.I.), Chuck Schumer (N.Y.), Jon Tester (Mont.) and Ron Wyden (Ore.).