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Rep. Houchin proposes tougher FAFSA deadline

Houchin pushes earlier aid application date

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — U.S. Rep. Erin Houchin on Wednesday told News 8 the current law on when the FAFSA portal can open is too vague and can lead to further problems for prospective students.

The Indiana Republican filed legislation this week to tighten the rules for when the Free Aid for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, application can become available.

Current federal law reads, “The Secretary shall enable applicants to submit a Free Application for Federal Student Aid developed under this section and initiate the processing of such application, not later than January 1 of the applicant’s planned year of enrollment, to the maximum extent practicable, on or around October 1 prior to the applicant’s planned year of enrollment.”

Houchin’s bill would replace that language with a hard deadline of Oct. 1.

Houchin says she wants to reduce the chances of future delays like the ones that plagued this year’s rollout of a simplified FAFSA application process. The system launched months behind schedule and students ran into numerous glitches when it finally did.

“What we’re trying to do in this legislation is hold their feet to the fire,” she said. “We are just trying to get them to abide by the law and put a firm stop in place to make sure, by the deadline, that the technology is ready to go.”

Houchin said, under her bill, the Department of Education would have to go before Congress sometime in September if officials conclude they could not meet the Oct. 1 deadline. She said, right now, her bill represents the main legislative effort in the aftermath of the FAFSA rollout debacle.

Houchin’s bill is already moving. It got a hearing on Wednesday, five days after she filed it. She said she and Sen. Bill Cassidy, a Louisiana Republican, have been working on companion bills for months based on hearings on the FAFSA problems.

During Wednesday’s hearing, Rep. Bobby Scott, a Democrat from Virginia, said Houchin’s bill would only make FAFSA problems worse by putting the department under even more deadline pressure.

“The speed should not come at the expense of accuracy,” he said. “I worry that tying the hands of the department and providing no flexibility to resolve the errors could create the unintended consequence that ultimately harms a student’s experience with FAFSA instead of improving it.”

A Department of Education spokesperson says in a statement that officials have brought in new leadership to help ensure the next FAFSA round can begin on Oct. 1 as scheduled. Officials said they are still taking feedback on the system.

“Our top priority remains delivering a Better FAFSA and improved application experience for the next FAFSA cycle — to impose a legislative deadline without providing the additional resources or support needed to launch is simply a political stunt and will not actually help ahead of the ’25-26 launch.”

U.S. Department of Education

Houchin’s bill has not yet come to a floor vote. It would still have to get through the Democratic-controlled Senate if it passes in the House.