Texas Democrats call on colleges to set aside financial aid money for immigrant families affected by FAFSA glitch

1 month 1 week 1 day ago Tuesday, April 09 2024 Apr 9, 2024 April 09, 2024 6:07 PM April 09, 2024 in News - Immigration / Borderwall
Source: https://www.texastribune.org/
Students walk into the University of Texas at El Paso's Union East building in El Paso on March 5, 2024. Credit: Justin Hamel for The Texas Tribune

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Texas Democrats in Congress are appealing to colleges to set aside financial aid funds for students who have not been able to complete the new FAFSA form because their parents do not have Social Security numbers.

Errors in the revamped Free Application for Federal Student Aid, which launched this year, have prevented parents without Social Security numbers from adding their financial information. The problem has disproportionately affected immigrant families.

A majority of Texas Democrats in the U.S. House signed an open letter Monday, calling on the state’s colleges to track how much money went last year to students whose parents do not have Social Security numbers, and to ensure a similar amount remains available until June 1 or until the federal government confirms it has forwarded to the colleges all the financial aid records they have from students affected by the error.

“We are greatly troubled about the disparate discriminatory impact this will have on thousands of Texas students seeking financial benefit being foreclosed to them due to nothing other than the immigration status of their contributor,” said the letter, which was spearheaded by U.S. Rep. Jasmine Crockett, D-Dallas.


Texas Democrats' open letter on recent FAFSA problems.

(324.8 KB)

In Texas, about one in four children has at least one parent who is not a U.S. citizen. Students must be U.S. citizens or have legal immigration status to apply for federal financial aid.

The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board extended the state priority deadline to submit the FAFSA to April 15 to acknowledge the technical challenges students from immigrant families have faced. But Texas colleges offer aid on a first-come, first serve basis, which means they could run out of funds by then and before many immigrant students can be considered to receive financial aid.

“Adjusting priority deadline policy alone is not sufficient,” the lawmakers’ letter said. “An institution which only adjusts its deadline policy may still find that it has awarded all of its available funds before the institution even receives the [Social Security Number]-burdened students’ [financial aid records].”

For four months, the U.S. Department of Education has been working on fixing the FAFSA error. Feds in mid-March announced a technical update that allowed students with parents without Social Security numbers to submit the form. But in the same announcement, they revealed two more bugs affecting the same group of students.

Parents without Social Security numbers have to enter their financial information manually, while other contributors can have the IRS pull their information directly from their tax filings. And those parents get an error message when the name or address they put down does not exactly match what their child entered.

Of the 13 Texas Democrats in Congress, ten signed the letter: Crockett; U.S. Reps. Greg Casar and Lloyd Doggett of Austin; Joaquin Castro of San Antonio; Colin Allred of Dallas; Veronica Escobar of El Paso; Sylvia R. Garcia, Al Green and Sheila Jackson Lee of Houston; and Marc Veasey of Fort Worth. They join a growing number of lawmakers who have intervened in the rollout of the new FAFSA, which Congress mandated in 2020 to streamline the form and make it easier to complete.

The Texas Tribune partners with Open Campus on higher education coverage.

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This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2024/04/08/fafsa-immigrant-students-congress-texas-democrats/.

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