December 03, 2019
WASHINGTON — U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-Ala.) today joined a bipartisan group of senators to introduce a solution to both permanently fund Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and other minority-serving institutions (MSIs) and to take a first step toward simplifying the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) process. Annual funding for MSIs expired on September 30, 2019.
The solution proposed today by Senator Jones and his colleagues amends his FUTURE Act legislation to permanently renew $255 million in annual funding for HBCUs and MSIs, and will also simplify the FAFSA by reducing it by up to 22 questions. The amendment is paid for through reduced administrative costs achieved by allowing FAFSA applicants to give permission to the Internal Revenue Service to securely share tax return data directly with the U.S. Department of Education.
“The permanent renewal of federal funding is a huge win for our nation’s minority-serving institutions, which have faced growing uncertainty and anxiety since their $255 million in annual funding expired in September. Instead of making tough decisions to cut programs and staff this holiday season, they can now count on permanent funding that will enable them to plan long-term and focus on their educational mission,” said Senator Jones, a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee.
Senator Jones has long championed the renewal of funding for minority-serving schools and also for simplification of the burdensome FAFSA form, which has proven to be a significant barrier for students who need financial assistance in order to afford college. Last year, Senator Jones proposed an ambitious bill to permanently extend and increase federal funding for MSIs before it was set to expire on September 30 this year. In the new session of Congress this year, he proposed a bipartisan bill, the FUTURE Act, to extend the funding for two years and give Congress time to negotiate a permanent solution. As the September 30th deadline approached, and in the months since the Senate allowed funding to expire, Senator Jones has worked to bring attention to the bill and has repeatedly pressured Senate leaders to allow it to come to a vote.
Senator Jones has also recently partnered with Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), chairman of the HELP Committee, to introduce legislation that would reduce the FAFSA form from 108 questions to between 18-30. Today’s proposal is a necessary first step to lay the groundwork for the passage of the broader Jones-Alexander FAFSA reform bill.
Senator Jones continued, speaking on the importance of FAFSA simplification, “With our proposal today, we also take an important first step toward simplifying our federal student aid application and helping more students achieve the dream of a college education. I thank my colleagues Senators Alexander and Murray for working to find a bipartisan compromise on two issues that deeply important to the people we serve.”
Senate HELP Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Senators Tim Scott (R-S.C.), Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Chris Coons (D-Del.) joined Senator Jones in introducing the amendment.