It’s often said that your own education is one of the best investments you can make. For many students, that investment looks like heading off to college. Even as the cost of higher education skyrockets, students continue to convene on campuses around the country each fall because they recognize hard work and dedication can unlock opportunities and brighter futures.
Because of that mindset, higher education has become woven into what it means to pursue the American Dream, and going to college is a goal for many teens and young adults across the nation. But for farm kids from rural areas, that dream is often burdened by financial barriers.
Many of our farm families, especially those right here in Iowa, hold their wealth in acres of fertile soil, tractors, and combines. The cash needed to fund their kids’ college dreams, on the other hand, is often a scarce commodity in today’s economy.
And that, folks, is the paradox of land ownership – many farm families find themselves asset-rich but cash-poor when their money is tied up in land and equipment. This leaves little room in a tight budget to cover ever-increasing tuition fees. Scholarships and financial aid are absolutely crucial for these rural students.
One of the biggest chances for college hopefuls to get that support comes from the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, often referred to as FAFSA. I’ve long worked to help students from families with small businesses and farms get more access to these funds by introducing several different pieces of legislation.
In the past few months, however, this issue has grown more urgent.
In 2020, Congress signed the FAFSA Simplification Act into law to make financial aid more accessible for all students by streamlining the application process and adjusting the calculation for the student’s expected family contribution. Unfortunately, despite having three years to prepare for the updated FAFSA rollout, President Biden’s Department of Education botched the introduction of the new form. Perhaps the president was more focused on socialist schemes and taxpayer-funded handouts that forced millions of hardworking Americans to pay student loans they never took on.
Biden’s new form was released three months late, drastically condensing the timeline families will have to submit for aid. The new FAFSA formula was also supposed to improve farm families’ eligibility for aid, but in reality, it could cause some families’ expected contributions to skyrocket by more than five times!
As a farm kid myself and a recipient of a Pell Grant, this is personal. That’s why I’m demanding an investigation into the Department of Education’s failed implementation of this new process.
If you’re a student or parent struggling to navigate this new system, don’t hesitate to reach out to my office for assistance. You can also access a helpful fact sheet Sen. Grassley and I developed by clicking here or visiting my website Ernst.senate.gov.
I understand the important role federal aid plays in helping students access a college education and will continue pushing the Biden admin to fix their FAFSA fiasco. No one should have to sell the farm to afford college.