FAFSA Simplification Bill Introduced, Executive Order Signed on Federal Agency Guidance


FAFSA Simplification Bill Introduced, Executive Order Signed on Federal Agency Guidance

This past week a bill to simplify the FAFSA was introduced in the Senate. Read below to learn more about the proposed bill, the recent executive order on agency guidance documents, additional information about the College Affordability Act and resources on work-based learning. 
Senator Alexander Introduces Bill to Simplify FAFSA
On Tuesday, Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Chair Lamar Alexander (R-TN) introduced a new bill, along with Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) to simplify the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)- referred to as the FAFSA Simplification Act. Although FAFSA simplification was included in the Student Aid Improvement Act of 2019 (S. 2557) that Senator Alexander introduced earlier this month, the FAFSA Simplification Act is a separate standalone bill. One of the most significant changes this bill would make is to decrease the number of questions on the form by prepopulating data already collected elsewhere. 
Overhauling the FAFSA to be less of a burden for students has been a longtime goal of Senator Alexander, and a priority for him in reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA).

Trump Signs Executive Order on Agency Guidance Documents 
Earlier this month President Donald Trump signed an Executive Order,“Promoting the Rule of Law Through Improved Agency Guidance Documents,” which requires that “agencies treat guidance documents as non-binding both in law and in practice.” The executive order states that all federal agency guidance must be clearly publicized as non-binding. Additional measures are put in place such as a required 30-day public comment period before any guidance is finalized. The order enforces that legally-binding requirements will originate only from Congress, and that “agencies may clarify existing obligations through non-binding guidance documents.”
House Plans for College Affordability Act Markup
Last week, House Education and Labor Committee Chair Bobby Scott (D-VA) introduced the Democrat’s HEA reauthorization bill, entitled the College Affordability Act (H.R. 4674). Markup of this bill is scheduled for Tuesday, October 29. The legislation is meant as a comprehensive reauthorization and includes a significant number of proposals, including:

  • Allocating an additional $181 million to states for postsecondary Perkins CTE programs; additional funds for tribal and outlying areas.
  • Creating a state-federal partnership to fund students to attend community college without cost. This program would require states to contribute $1 for every $3 the federal government contributes.
  • Removing the student unit record data system (SURD) ban and creating a new streamlined data system. The language included is almost identical to the College Transparency Act which Advance CTE strongly supports. This would streamline data collection, reduce institutional burden and better track student success and institutional quality.
  • Expanding Pell grant eligible dual-enrollment opportunities through a competitive grant program. The bill would also increase the number of Pell eligible semesters from 12 to 14, which is meant to allay concerns about Pell grant exhaustion. 

Advance CTE’s HEA recommendations can be found here
U.S. Department of Labor Shares Resources on Work-Based Learning
The U.S. Department of Labor Employment and Training Administration shared a page on the WorkforceGPS website with resources to support work-based learning. Some of the topics covered include apprenticeships, career pathways and internships. New resources will continue to be added to this web page.
Meredith Hills, Policy Associate and Sam Dunietz, Senior Associate for Federal Policy