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Senators ask DeVos to adjust FAFSA form due to the coronavirus pandemic

Senators ask DeVos to adjust FAFSA form due to the coronavirus pandemic
© Greg Nash

A bipartisan group of senators is asking the Department of Education to adjust the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form and website to account for changes to a student’s financial situation as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.  

“Students and families who have recently become unemployed or suffered a significant drop in income may fail to qualify for the support they need to afford college,” the senators wrote in a letter Wednesday to Education Secretary Betsy DeVosBetsy DeVosErik Prince involved in push for experimental COVID-19 vaccine: report Biden administration reverses Trump-era policy that hampered probes of student loan companies DeVos ordered to testify in student loan forgiveness lawsuit MORE.

“To that end, we believe the Department plays an integral role in ensuring that students and financial aid administrators have the information and resources necessary to respond to the unique challenges that this global pandemic has created and exacerbated,” they added. 

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The senators said they are concerned that the financial situations of students who have recently filed or are in the process of filing the FAFSA are not “accurately reflected,” noting the 14.7 percent national unemployment rate.

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Department of Education press secretary Angela Morabito said in a statement the department is reviewing the letter. 

"Secretary DeVos continues to use every available avenue to help keep students learning during this national emergency," Morabito said. 

In response to the crisis, the senators asked the department to add a temporary question to the FAFSA form for the 2020-2021 and 2021-2022 school years asking, “Was your income significantly reduced due to the COVID-19 emergency?”

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They also said the department should update pages of the FAFSA website and app with guidance for students and families to follow up with student aid administrators to provide information about changes. 

The senators added that the department should provide the necessary tools and support for financial aid administrators to adjust an impacted student’s family income on their submitted FAFSA form. 

—Updated at 3:24 p.m.