WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Angus King (I-ME) joined a bipartisan group of 18 Senators in urging U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to work with TRIO grantees to allow the use of FAFSA as documentation of a student’s income or family’s income to determine eligibility for TRIO programs.
TRIO programs provide low-income, first-generation, and disabled students the support, financial resources, and guidance they need to successfully graduate from high school, enroll in a college or university, and earn a degree. Currently, TRIO requires applicants to use tax information from the previous year to prove income eligibility. This requirement, however, conflicts with recent reforms made to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which now allow applicants to use income data from two years prior, so students can apply for financial aid earlier.
In a bipartisan letter to Secretary DeVos, Senators Collins and King urged the administration to work with TRIO grantees to allow the FAFSA to be used to document a student’s or family’s income to determine eligibility for TRIO programs.
“We write to you on behalf of approximately 800,000 low-income, first-generation college students who seek to take advantage of the services and supports provided by the Federal TRIO Programs,” the Senators wrote. “We are concerned by reports that the Department’s constructive efforts to streamline and simplify the financial aid application process to benefit students may have led to a potential conflict with eligibility requirements for TRIO programs.”
“We urge you to follow the directive in this report language to work with TRIO grantees to allow for the use of the student’s most recently completed financial aid application as documentation of a student’s income, to determine eligibility for TRIO programs,” the Senators continued.
While the FAFSA reforms helped streamline and simplify the financial aid application process, the inconsistency between TRIO and FAFSA requirements has unintentionally placed a burden on TRIO grantees and students on evaluating eligibility— forcing them to use valuable time and resources to determine alternative methods of demonstrating low-income status.
In addition to Senators Collins and King, the letter was also signed by U.S. Senators Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Jack Reed (D-RI), Jon Tester (D-MT), Patty Murray (D-WA), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Doug Jones (D-AL), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Joe Manchin III (D-WV), Bernard Sanders (I-VT), Tina Smith (D-MN), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN).
Click HERE to read the letter.