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Senators Concerned About FAFSA Form Error Harming Students in Mixed-Status Families

Two political leaders allege that a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form error is preventing students with contributors, including parents and spouses, who do not have a Social Security Number from completing the U.S. Department of Education’s new FAFSA form.

Sen. Padilla AlexSen. Padilla Alex“We remain concerned about the Department’s plan to address the ongoing error that does not allow for contributors without a Social Security Number (SSN) to complete the FAFSA application, the impact of this error, and how any remedies will be communicated in a culturally relevant manner to impacted students, institutions of higher education, and other student financial aid stakeholders,” wrote U.S. Senators Alex Padilla of California and Bernie Sanders of Vermont in a letter to Education Secretary Dr. Miguel A. Cardona.

Padilla and Sanders, who is also chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, led 24 Senators in urging U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona to address the issue that could be harming students in mixed-status families.

The passage of the bipartisan FAFSA Simplification Act and the FUTURE Act sought, in part, to make the new FAFSA application, launched by the Department in December 2023, more efficient and straightforward for the over 17 million students who fill out the form each year. However, contributors without SSNs still cannot complete their part of the application.

The Senators also called on the Department to remedy the incomplete guidance for higher education institutions and students, confusion and misinformation surrounding the form, and the potential long-term educational impacts of this error. They requested answers from the Department by March 12, including the timeline for the form fix, how they will address misinformation, what resources they will make available, and what their communication plan will be to all impacted stakeholders.

“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,” wrote the Senators. “There remains widespread misinformation, a lack of clear communication with students and stakeholders, and no plan to address the long-term impact that this error may have on the educational prospects for some of our most vulnerable students.”

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