5 steps forward Biden can take on financial aid

Financial aid leaders call for immediate action to 'refocus, reinvest, and recalibrate' policies
By: | January 21, 2021
(GettyImages/Aleksei Naumov)(GettyImages/Aleksei Naumov)

Financial aid leaders are calling on President Joe Biden to take five big step to provide high school graduates and other students with more assistance as higher ed recovers from COVID.

The National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators’ policy recommendations include strengthening Pell Grants, curbing college loan debt and enhancing student aid delivery.

The organization is calling for a “robust, streamlined student aid policy.”

“Concerns over college access, affordability, and transparency are colliding with the growing demand in the workforce for college educated individuals, all while racial disparities in college access and attainment are becoming more stark than ever,” the organization, also known as NASFAA said in a statement.


FETC PreviewThe 2021 FETC keynote speakers


“Action—in some cases immediate—is needed to refocus, reinvest, and recalibrate our country’s policies around postsecondary education,” NASFAA said.

Here are the five steps NASFAA want the Biden-Harris administration and Congress to take:

1. Deliver additional COVID relief

The organization says it hopes for a repeal of the Department of Education’s requirement that students meet Title IV eligibility to receive CARES Act funding.

And while the CARES Act provided nearly $14 billion and the recently passed omnibus bill allocated another $23 billion, higher ed needs another $100 billion to safely reopen campuses and help students remain enrolled.

NASFAA also wants Congress and the incoming administration to extend borrower relief provisions included in the CARES Act, including the automatic payment suspension and 0% interest rate, until Sept. 30 or the end of the COVID emergency.

2. Strengthen Pell Grants

The maximum Pell Grant for 2020-21 will cover only 29% of the average cost of attendance at a public four-year institution, while it covered 79% in 1975.


More from DA’s FETC: Introducing the Top Ed Tech Products of 2020


Expanding college by doubling the Pell Grant is now a matter of racial and social justice, NASFAA says.

The organization also hopes to see Pell Grant eligibility extended to Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) participants.

3. Simplify federal financial aid applications

The new omnibus bill eliminates unnecessary FAFSA questions and modified the eligibility formula to expand Pell Grant eligibility.

To ensure these and other recent FAFSA changes result in positive change, the Biden administration should encourage stakeholder feedback and collaboration among federal agencies, NASFAA says.

4. Curb student loan debt and simplify repayment

NASFAA is calling on the administration to:

  • Eliminate student loan origination fees.
  • Explore targeted debt forgiveness.
  • Consolidate and simplify federal loan repayment plans.
  • Strengthen public service loan forgiveness.
  • Restore interest subsidy for graduate students.

FETC preview: How will Biden steer education policy in 2021?


5. Enhance student aid delivery

NASFAA also is hoping the new administration will work to make the Department of Education’s Office of Federal Student Aid more efficient and ensure more oversight of the agency.

The organization also hopes the agency will be staffed and resourced adequately.

“As those who work with students on a daily basis, financial aid administrators nationwide continue to believe there are many opportunities to improve the federal student aid system to ensure success for all stakeholders in all stages of the process,” NASFAA concluded.