College Now Chief Program Officer Dr. Michele Scott Taylor Testifies Before U.S. Senate HELP Committee on FAFSA Simplification and Verification
On March 12, 2019, College Now’s Chief Program Officer Dr. Michele Scott Taylor sat in front of the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions as one of four experts called on to testify during the full committee hearing on “Reauthorizing the Higher Education Act: Simplifying the FAFSA and Reducing the Burden of Verification.”
Michele, along with Kristina Scott, Executive Director of Alabama Possible, Michael Meotti, Executive Director of Washington Student Achievement Council, and Dr. Mark Wiederspan, Executive Research Officer at Iowa Student Aid, spoke to the Senate HELP Committee about concerns and challenges faced by students, particularly low-income, first-generation students, when filling out the FAFSA in its current state.
During her testimony, Michele reiterated that both the real and perceived complexity of the FAFSA is a hinderance for the students and families who need Federal financial aid the most. Drawing on her own experience as a first-generation college student, Michele also emphasized that transparency of information is vital to the college application process, stating that, “Getting to and through college is a full-time job.”
During the question portion of the hearing, Michele was asked about Federal programs such as GEAR UP, TriO, and 21st Century Community Learning Center programming. Michele advocated for these programs, describing how they enable early access to the college-going process and facilitate earlier and deeper conversations about postsecondary education.
Michele’s colleagues on the panel advocated for similar changes and approaches to fixing the FAFSA. Kristina Scott from Alabama Possible presented the solution of simplifying and streamlining the FAFSA without using confusing terms that students and families may not understand. Michael Meotti of Washington Student Achievement Council recommended fixing the verification system and building more student-friendly pathways in the financial aid system.
Dr. Mark Wiederspan of Iowa College Aid emphasized that all individuals should have the same opportunity to pursue the benefits that college and higher education bring, but the FAFSA can make pursuing higher education more difficult for many students.
The groundwork for Michele’s testifying had been laid during a trip to Capital Hill by College Now and Higher Education Compact staff members Kittie Warshawsky and Margie Glick. After hearing that the Senate HELP Committee would be having a hearing on FAFSA simplification and verification, Margie and Kittie contacted NCAN to express College Now’s enthusiasm about potentially testifying.
College Now is proud of the testimony by Michele, Kristina Scott, Michael Meotti, and Dr. Mark Wiederspan, and looks forward to following the U.S. Senate HELP Committee’s progress surrounding issues of FAFSA simplification and verification.