Indiana lawmakers advance stripped-down college aid application bill

A bill that seeks to increase the number of Indiana students who complete the federal college financial aid application advanced to the Indiana House on Monday, but only after lawmakers removed an significant mandate from the measure.

The House education committee changed the proposal to only require that school officials provide high school seniors and their parents with more information about the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA.

That action came after K-12 school associations raised concerns that a Senate-approved version mandating that students complete the form would create additional work for already overburdened teachers and guidance counselors,

Fewer than 60% of Indiana’s 2021 high school graduates completed a FAFSA form, according to the National College Attainment Network. Bill sponsor Republican Sen. Jean Leising of Oldenburg said that left at least $65 million in potential federal aid unclaimed by Hoosier students.

Supporters say the need to help students afford a postsecondary education is becoming a more pressing problem as Indiana faces declining college enrollment.

The issue is being weighed by the Legislature for third year in a row. Proposed FAFSA mandates have passed the Senate in each of the past two legislative sessions but have not advanced in the House.

Similar measures have been adopted in Louisiana, Texas and Illinois. Leising said those laws have resulted in significant increases in FAFSA participation rates.

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