Owens Exposes Education Department’s FAFSA Failure

WASHINGTON — Higher Education and Workforce Development Subcommittee Chair Burgess Owens (UT-04) led the first hearing on the Department of Education’s failure to launch the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) in a timely and effective manner, resulting in over 18 million students and families who are unable to make financial decisions about their college education. 

Click here or above to watch. 

“When the Department of Education rolled out the new FAFSA, students were met with sporadic glitches, never-ending queues, and a myriad of technical issues. Some students could not complete the form at all, said Chair Owens. “These failures will not just impact taxpayers, who always pay the cost for bureaucratic dysfunction. Institutions could see an estimated 20 percent drop in enrollment this fall. Low-income students who require access to aid are going to be the hardest hit. And these delays don’t even account for next year’s FAFSA, which almost certainly will not be ready by this October.”

Owens questioned key witnesses on the Department of Education’s failure to acknowledge FAFSA issues and the impact glitches and system failures have had on students, families, and institutions. 

“The department’s FAFSA delays and errors are not victimless crimes. At the end of the day, students, families, and states – and institutions – are anxious and frustrated because the department has failed to do their job,” continued Chair Owens.

Click here or above to watch. 

Background:

  • The bipartisan FAFSA Simplification Act, passed in 2020 with the intention of streamlining the application process, aimed to make financial aid more accessible for all students. The legislation mandated the Department of Education (Education) to roll out the FAFSA program by January 1st, 2024.
  • Despite having three years to prepare, the Department of Education made the application available for borrowers for only 30 minutes on December 30th, 2023, an additional hour on December 31st, 2023, and sporadic periods until becoming fully live on Saturday, January 6th, 2024, days after the Congress-set deadline.
  • In January 2024 Owens sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona requesting documents relating to the delayed FAFSA rollout and reports of system-wide glitches. Read the letter here.
  • The Department of Education has consistently failed to admit the extent of these issues or properly mitigate them, causing the FAFSA application completion rate to fall 40% this year.

Watch the full hearing here.

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