Inside Higher Ed: Senate Democrats Press Education Department for FAFSA Fix

By Katherine Knott

Twenty-six Senate Democrats are urging the Education Department to permanently fix an error in the new Free Application for Federal Student Aid that blocks some students whose parents don’t have a Social Security number from completing the form.

The department has announced a temporary workaround for those students and said a permanent solution is coming this month. In a letter sent Wednesday, the senators said that although they appreciated the temporary patch, which they called a “small-scale” option, they are concerned about the department’s plan to fix the issue.

The letter highlights the bipartisan pressure the department is facing. The Education Department was already under fire from congressional Republicans, who have been critical of its messy FAFSA launch more broadly. The Democrats requested more details by March 12 about the department’s timeline, how it will share information about the fix with students and what resources it plans to make available to families to help them complete the application.

California senator Alex Padilla, a Democrat, and Vermont senator Bernie Sanders, an Independent who chairs the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, spearheaded the letter.

“Across the nation, students, parents, financial aid officers and advocates are expressing frustration and anger as they attempt to gauge how best to proceed in this unique, complicated situation,” the letter says. “However, they are often met with an alarming rate of misinformation, long call center wait times and excessive barriers to access. We are concerned that without clear direction from the department, these students will miss out on opportunities and not be able to finance their higher education.”

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