WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen, along with Congressmen David Trone, Dutch Ruppersberger, John Sarbanes, Anthony Brown and Jamie Raskin (all D-Md.), applauded the inclusion of the FAFSA Fairness Act of 2019 (S. 416) in the end-of-year spending bill recently passed by Congress.
The FAFSA Fairness Act would improve the application process for students without parents to receive federal financial aid. The bill was first introduced by the late Congressman Elijah E. Cummings in February 2019.
“Nothing should stand in the way of a student’s education – neither money nor difficult life circumstances,” said Senator Cardin. “The already lengthy process of applying for federal student aid is even harder for students who are unable to contact their parents due to abuse or neglect. I am proud that Congress has finally passed the FAFSA Fairness Act to simplify the application process and open doors for even more students to access federal student aid. We must continue to work to eliminate barriers that keep our most vulnerable students from reaching their higher education goals. This is a fitting tribute to our colleague and friend Congressman Cummings.”
“Every student with the dream of attending college should have the opportunity to achieve that goal. We cannot let financial difficulties or burdensome regulations and red tape stand in the way,” said Senator Van Hollen. “The FAFSA Fairness Act will make college more accessible by removing obstacles to student financial aid. I was proud to help introduce this legislation alongside our dear friend Elijah Cummings, and I’m glad Team Maryland has worked together to get it over the finish line. Together, we will continue working to make college more affordable and accessible for all of our students.”
"I was honored to take the lead on this bill after Congressman Cummings' passing because every student deserves the chance to reach the highest levels of academic achievement without increased financial barriers,” said Congressman Trone, the only member from the Maryland Delegation on the Education and Labor Committee. “Access to higher education gave me the opportunity to be successful in life, and it’s important for students who don’t have access to their parents to have this same opportunity and financial support to obtain a degree in higher education. The FAFSA Fairness Act is just another example of how Elijah Cumming’s legacy continues to live on.”
“I am so proud of Maryland’s delegation for rallying behind this important bill, first introduced by our friend and colleague, the late Congressman Cummings, to make the student aid process easier for students who aren’t in contact with their parents,” said Congressman Ruppersberger. “It’s a no brainer. A child who may have left home due to an abusive environment or whose parents are incarcerated should never be penalized for trying to better themselves and achieve a quality education.”
“With the strong support of the Maryland Delegation and in honor of the late Elijah Cummings, Congress has acted to reduce barriers for students seeking financial aid,” said Congressman Sarbanes. “The new, streamlined application will help more students – especially in low-income and underserved communities – access critical financial aid and make college more affordable.”
“Every student deserves a high quality, affordable education no matter their zip code or life circumstances. Reducing barriers to higher education for students experiencing parental abuse or neglect is the right thing to do,” said Congressman Brown. “My dear friend Congressman Elijah Cummings would often say that our children are the living messages to the future. With the passage of this bill, we make clear that every child should have the opportunity to succeed.”
“As a professor for more than a quarter century, I saw higher education can transform young people’s minds, lives, and fortunes,” said Congressman Raskin. “I’m thrilled that Congress passed the FAFSA Fairness Act, championed by our beloved late colleague Elijah Cummings, to improve the federal financial aid process for students who cannot rely on parental assistance with their applications.”
The bill will allow 18- to 24-year-old students to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as “provisionally independent” students and determine the level of their financial aid from each college they apply to. This designation would apply to those who do not have contact with their parents, or who meet other criteria established by educational institutions. Currently, these students must undergo a “dependency override” at each institution they apply to before they are considered for financial aid. This process can be extremely time consuming and create barriers to college access for students facing difficult personal and financial circumstances.