Press Release

March 23, 2018
Cardin, Van Hollen, Cummings Introduce Bicameral Legislation to Improve Student Access to Federal Financial Aid

WASHINGTON — Senators Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen have introduced the FAFSA Fairness Act of 2018 to simplify the process for students to apply for and receive federal student financial aid when they do not have contact with their parents. Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, the Ranking Member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, introduced the companion bill in the House.

“We want all students to have an opportunity to achieve their dream of a higher education,” said Senator Cardin, a member of the Senate Finance Committee. “Students with difficult personal and financial circumstances should have the same chance as their peers to make informed financial decisions and comparison shop for the highest quality, yet most affordable, option for college available to them. Team Maryland will continue to work together to eliminate obstacles that our most vulnerable students face when working works their higher education goals.”

“Financial difficulties should never prevent a student from getting a good education. Yet for many young people, the financial aid process is unnecessarily confusing and burdensome,” said Senator Van Hollen. “This legislation would simplify the process and help students make informed decisions about their academic careers. I hope we can act on this common-sense proposal without delay.”

“All qualified students should be able to attend college regardless of their financial or life circumstances,” said Rep. Cummings. “Students who have escaped abusive homes, have been abandoned, have parents who are incarcerated, or who have other special circumstances that limit contact with their parents should have the same opportunities as their classmates who have not faced these obstacles.  Instead, these students frequently abandon their goal of attending college because of the often long and complicated process of applying for student aid.  This bill will help prevent our financial aid process from continuing to be an unintended barrier to higher education.”

The Act’s key provision would allow students who do not have contact with their parents, or who meet other criteria established by educational institutions, to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as “provisionally independent” students.  Currently, these students must undergo a “dependency override” at each institution they apply to before they are able to be considered for financial aid.  This process can be a barrier to college access for students with these difficult personal and financial circumstances. 

Under the legislation, these students would be able to submit data to the institutions they are applying to, and those institutions would calculate provisional financial aid packages before the dependency override process.

The Act would not increase the workload of college financial aid administrators or alter their discretion, but it would ease the financial aid application process for students and provide an incentive to complete the entire process and enroll in higher education.

Click here to read the Senate bill.

Click here to read the House bill.