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Senators Grassley And Ernst Raise Concerns Over Impact To Farm Families Caused By FAFSA Changes

Iowa Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst, along with a bipartisan group of their colleagues, are raising the alarm concerning proposed changes to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) that could reduce or eliminate farm families’ access to need-based student aid. Previously, the FAFSA excluded non-liquid farm assets, such as farmland, equipment, storage structures, and more, when determining a family’s ability to pay for college. However, the FAFSA Simplification Act, which was signed into law in December 2020, changes the way assets, income, and debt are calculated, and the new program does not reflect farms’ unique business models, seasonal income, and debt fluctuation. In a bipartisan letter to the U.S. Department of Education, the senators wrote, “Our constituents have expressed concern about how some of these changes will affect their families and are eager for prompt guidance from the Department on how implementation of the FAFSA Simplification Act will affect their participation in federal financial aid programs.” An analysis by Iowa College Aid found that a farm family with an adjusted gross income of $60,000 would be eligible for $7,626 in aid, but under the new system, the assistance could be cut to zero depending on how much land a family has. Iowa College Aid Executive Director Mark Wiederspan says, “The FAFSA Simplification Act will make postsecondary education more affordable and accessible to many Iowans. However, treating family farms and small businesses as an asset in the needs analysis formula may, unfortunately, make some Iowans ineligible for federal or state need-based financial aid.” The changes to the FAFSA application are scheduled to become effective July 1, 2023.

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