GOP Senator Presses Biden Admin for Clarification on ‘Bewildering’ Rule Threatening Farming Families

( – Led by Republican Senator Joni Ernst of Iowa, a group of 13 senators from both sides of the aisle have sent a letter to the Department of Education pointing that a new financial aid process may send the cost of college into the stratosphere for farm families.

The DOE says it has “streamlined” the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) application process. But the lawmakers say the changes are substantial and could hit kids from farming families hardest in the wallet.

The two major issues the lawmakers cite are the DOE’s timing and the financial information they ask students and families to account for. First, the Department has delayed the roll-out of the new application in a way that could make it impossible for students and families to have time to review financial aid offers from colleges in time to make a decision.

The letter says the DOE was late in rolling out the new forms, which are usually available by October 1st. Instead, the Department plans to wait until March to send student records necessary to calculate financial aid. According to the letter, this is causing colleges to delay making aid offers to students until April or May.

Senator Chuck Grassley, Republican of Iowa and one of the letter signers said the FAFSA process this year “has created more headaches than it’s helped.”

Prospective students from families who make their living may be hit harder than anyone, according to the letter. Part of the FAFSA application asks students and families to list their assets in order to determine how much financial help they qualify for in the form of grants or loans. But valuing farm assets is much more difficult than, for example, listing the value of a home a family might own, along with their cash assets.

The letter points out that money made from crops and livestock varies widely from year to year, unlike the steady flow of cash families expect when they work for a salary. In addition, assets like heavy machinery, seeds, and animals can’t be “cashed out” the way more common assets like real estate could be.

According to the senators, all this means that a farm family making $60,000 in cash every year, but who may have $1 million in farm assets, would go from paying about $7,000 a year toward college to more than $41,000.

Meanwhile, on the House side, Kansas Rep. Tracey Mann has introduced a bill to address some of the problems called the Family Farm and Small Business Exemption Act.

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