Assembly passes Rep. Biah and Sen. Acosta’s legislation requiring student notification of FAFSA opportunities

 

STATE HOUSE – The House today passed legislation (2022-H 7974A, 2022-S 3015) sponsored by Rep. Nathan W. Biah and Sen. Jonathon Acosta which would require guidance departments to ensure that notices are provided to students and their parents or guardians regarding the FAFSA form and the Rhode Island alternative financial aid application form.

“Higher education can unlock a world of opportunities for students dedicated to continuing their educations, but unfortunately, the cost of attaining a degree, whether actual or perceived, prevents many students from attaining their dreams of going to college.  This is why this bill is so important, because it will guarantee that our students know about the financial aid programs that are available to them, allowing them to take the next step in their educational careers,” said Representative Biah (D-Dist. 3, Providence).

“The cost of higher education is a significant obstacle to many students and the FAFSA is a crucial key to unlocking the path toward a degree.  By making sure that every student and their guardian receives this information, young adults who never thought higher education was possible for them may change their minds and pursue their passions at a college or university, bettering themselves and their communities,” said Senator Acosta (D-Dist. 16, Central Falls, Pawtucket).

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form allows eligible students the opportunity to obtain federal financial aid through the U.S. Department of Education to assist with the cost of postsecondary education.  The Rhode Island alternative financial aid application is the form that allows eligible students who are not permitted to fill out the FAFSA an opportunity to apply for state financial aid, regardless of their immigration status, to assist with the cost of postsecondary education.

This notice would be provided in either the student’s junior year or no later than November 1 of the student’s senior year. The guidance department would determine the form for providing the notice which would best ensure the information is communicated both to the student and to the student’s guardian.  The form of the notice may include, but shall not be limited to, a written paper or hard copy writing or an electronic copy. The notice may be provided in multiple formats. A hard copy of the notice would be kept in the student's file.

The notice would be required to provide the following information:

·         A general explanation of what the FAFSA and the alternative application are;

·         The potential merit to and benefits of completing and submitting a FAFSA or alternative application, including, but not limited to, the awarding of financial aid, income or need based aid, merit and other scholarship money, the Promise Scholarship, and Pell Grants, to pursue post-secondary education;

·         A general discussion on what financial aid is and the many forms it can take;

·         General instructions on how to complete each form; and

·         Links to the applicable websites shall also be included.

The bill now heads to the governor’s desk for consideration.

 

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