Veasey Introduces Bill to Reduce Barriers For Students Applying to College
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressman Marc Veasey, TX-33, introduced legislation to prevent students nationwide from missing crucial federal and state grant opportunities that support their higher education aspirations. H.R. 3516, the Reduce Barriers to College Act, will streamline the burdensome Federal Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) verification process for students who must prove that their families did not file federal taxes. The bill directs the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to create a FAFSA-specific online portal for non-filing applicants and requires the agency to respond to any requests for non-filing letters within 10 business days.
“Capable students shouldn’t have to postpone their college dreams because a government agency can’t provide them the documents they need in time for crucial financial aid deadlines,” Congressman Veasey said. “A delay of a few weeks can mean the world of a difference for a student losing sleep because they do not know how they will pay for college.”
Current FAFSA Income Verification Process
Students completing a FAFSA application must verify their family’s income by submitting their parents’ tax returns. FAFSA reviewers can also select individuals who must provide additional documents in order for the application to be considered complete.
Students who come from families that file tax returns due to their incomes being so low, or those with parents who lacked a Social Security number, lived separately from their parents, and others who were homeless unaccompanied youths who hadn’t paid taxes before, are usually subject to verification by the IRS.
The cumbersome verification process requires a student to submit several documents that serve as proof of non-filing from the IRS.
Challenges during the 2017 FAFSA Application Cycle
Requests to the IRS for non-filing letters were often not provided for months. This year, applicants were also encouraged to make an appointment with their local IRS office to obtain the non-filing letter quicker, but the earliest appointments could only be scheduled months later when the majority of state and federal financial aid grants were already dispersed.
Proposed Changes under the Reduce Barriers to College Act
Directing the IRS to create a FAFSA-specific portal for students to request non-filing letters will provide a convenient place for applicants to upload necessary verification documents such as household utility bills, student transcripts, bank account statement without the delay of physical mail delivery. The IRS will also be required to respond to all non-filing letter requests within ten business days. Providing an online option for verification will fast track a crucial aspect of the financial aid application process and prevent students from living in limbo as they consider different college options.
Please click here to read the bill text.