For months Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has been preaching about and pushing for a simplified, modernized federal student aid application process. On Monday, in his fiscal 2019 budget proposal, President Donald Trump reinforced his administration’s commitment to making that a reality.
Trump supports the Office of Federal Student Aid (FSA) “in undertaking a monumental student loan servicing upgrade,” according to the proposal. “FSA is reorganizing its fragmented servicing and operating infrastructure in order to provide an innovative, world-class financial services experience for its customers.”
Long before DeVos began talking about modernizing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) filing process, others in leadership positions had complained that it was too long, complex and archaic, even deterring students from submitting their applications at all. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., a former Education secretary and the current chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, has been a vocal opponent of the current FAFSA process for years and has suggested reducing the application to the size of a postcard.
After DeVos began beating that drum last fall, and now with Trump’s budget proposal falling in line with the same argument, plans to modernize the FAFSA and the office that oversees it seem within reach.
Without providing details about funding or a timeline, Trump’s budget reaffirms the promises DeVos and the head of FSA made in November, including the rollout of a mobile-friendly option to complement “an integrated but nimble new system,” the proposal says.
The administration also says that “every aspect” of its modernization effort will include top-of-the-line cybersecurity features to protect the FSA’s more than 40 million customers.
In November, DeVos and Wayne Johnson — the then-chief operating officer of the FSA — said the FAFSA mobile app would be rolled out in spring 2018. Neither the department nor the Trump administration have provided further details about a launch date.