Buchanan’s bipartisan bill would smooth application process for student financial aid

U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-FL) recently introduced bipartisan legislation aimed at streamlining how students apply for federal aid to attend college and how certain borrowers repay their student loans.

Rep. Buchanan on Jan. 17 introduced the Student Aid Simplification Act, H.R. 640, with bill sponsor U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 and the Higher Education Act of 1965 to facilitate the disclosure of tax return information, among other purposes, according to the congressional record.

“This legislation is a common-sense measure to simplify and streamline the student aid application, while also helping to reduce improper repayments as more precise records are conveyed,” Rep. Buchanan said on Tuesday.

If enacted, H.R. 640 would permit the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to share a student’s financial records with the U.S. Education Department.

Currently, the IRS cannot share taxpayer data so students must get their tax information from the IRS and then submit it with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form.

“After a decade of seeking to streamline the financial aid process, I still find FAFSA too complicated, confusing and underutilized,” said Rep. Doggett. “Our bipartisan bill encourages better coordination between federal agencies so more students can apply for financial assistance by importing necessary financial information with one-click.”

H.R. 640 also would simplify the recertification process for borrowers on income-based repayment plans. More than 55 percent of such borrowers are at risk of defaulting on their student loans because they don’t submit their recertification forms on time, Rep. Buchanan’s office said, citing Education Department data.

H.R. 640 has been referred for consideration to both the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee and the U.S. House Education and Labor Committee.