Congress simplifies FAFSA as pressure mounts to tackle student loan crisis – Oberlin review

In a spending bill passed earlier this month, Congress made several changes to the way students pay for higher education – delaying the implementation of the law on simplifying the free application for federal student aid by one year and increasing the maximum grant for Pell Grant recipients of $ 400. The changes come amid a wider national debate about the future of the student loan crisis.

Most of the changes to FAFSA will not take effect until the academic year 2024-2025, so the current first year class will be the only class to enroll in Oberlin that will be affected once the revisions take effect. One of the most important changes was the reduction of the 108 questions on the FAFSA form to a maximum of 36.

Despite the delay, some minor changes have already taken effect, such as the removal of one question about Selective Service and another about whether the applicant had ever been convicted of a drug-related offense.

“For students who had previously been arrested for drugs and had already done whatever it took, either spent time or went through the legal process, it was almost as if we were being held accountable for it again,” said Aid Finance Director Michele Kosboth. “So being able to remove that from FAFSA and say that students do not have to answer that question is really a social justice move.”

Visiting Assistant Professor of Politics Amanda Zadorian studies economic inequality and echoes Kosboth’s sentiment, saying change is a step in the right direction.

“One thing I think is really great is that Pell is now fit for incarcerated students in the new FAFSA, and also drug convictions no longer count against you,” Zadorian said. “I think it’s very important for equality. “Great victories for equality.”

In the long run, the law aims to make changes to FAFSA to simplify the filing process. However, it is too early to gauge how these changes will affect the way Oberlin distributes financial aid or who will be eligible for government programs such as the Pell Grant. The revised FAFSA will also include a new financial measurement called the Student Assistance Index that will replace the current FAFSA Estimated Family Contribution.

“What follows… are changes to the way the formula works,” Kosboth said. “This is a part that we do not yet fully understand how it will affect Oberlin’s students. [A] “Two of the things that will change that we know, for example, is that they will no longer consider how many students in the household are in college.”

The passage of the FAFSA Simplification Act and the increased funding for Pell grants can be a relief for students and their families who need to navigate the demanding financial aid application process. However, little is being done to address the larger issue of the US student loan crisis.

Since the election of President Biden in 2020, the Progressives have pushed Biden to use his executive power to cancel student loans. During his campaign, Biden promised to forgive $ 10,000 in federal student loans per person.

“This is something that has a long, long history – the idea of ​​canceling all debts to prevent an uprising of the lower classes,” Zadorian said. “The federal government has $ 1.6 trillion in student loan debt. “Which is a lot of money, but it is only double the defense budget approved for 2022. So it is literally two years of federal military spending.”

Zadorian traces the history of the student loan crisis to the 1980s, when the austerity movement opened the door to greater privatization and greater debt dependence. As a result, many public universities were underfunded – a trend that continues to this day. This pushes students to seek private education, which helps increase student debt levels.

“Instead of going to a well-funded public university, where you pay a nominal fee for quality education and go out into the world debt-free and become a productive member of society, instead, you are expected to borrow for your future profits and go to a private college. to get quality education “, said Zadorian. “And the promise there, the kind of social contract is that once you graduate with this quality degree, you will find a job and be able to pay off the debt.”

Unfortunately, this reality has not been seen for the nearly 43 million Americans with student loan debt who face widening income inequality and the difficult task of achieving upward mobility.

“People of this generation in the 1980s and 1984 who are not moving up are not able to pay their debts and buy houses,” Zadorian said. “Which means they are not creating wealth by having this domestic asset, which is the main way Americans are building wealth. “And that will have a lasting effect as they get older and older.”

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