HCM’s Kristin Hultquist Testifies Before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP)

By Mac Walker -

HCM’s Kristin Hultquist Testifies Before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP)

“Time to Finish Fixing the FAFSA.”

Washington, D.C. – HCM Strategists, one of the nation’s leading educational public policy and advocacy firms, today announced that Founding Partner Kristin Hultquist testified in the 116th Congress before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP). Kristin’s testimony was part of the HELP Committee hearing entitled “Time to Finish Fixing the FAFSA.” The purpose of the hearing was to examine the final steps needed to simplify the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) so that all income data needed to determine aid eligibility can be accessed from IRS access records. 

During her testimony, Kristin reminded the Senators of the consensus that has been built over the last decade. In particular, the importance of a new needs analysis formula that uses annual tax data. Passage of this year of the bipartisan FAFSA Simplification Act would remove several remaining barriers in current legislation, including the ability to provide prospective students and the recently unemployed with a simple Pell look-up table, as well as remove 53 unnecessary questions from the form. The bill would remove “Question 23,” asking applicants if they have a prior drug conviction. This question is a known barrier to completing the FAFSA for justice-impacted individuals seeking to improve their lives through education. Recently, a coalition made up of nearly forty faith organizations, justice reform advocacy groups, employers and higher education organizations expressed strong support for the removal of the question.

In today’s hearing, Chairman Alexander and Senator Murray “brought the band back together” – the four co-witnesses from a hearing in 2013 when bi-partisan academic, policy and advocate consensus for a simpler needs analysis was first expressed. Kristin has previously testified in 2013 and 2017 before the House Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Development on streamlining and simplifying the Federal Student Aid System. 

“Congress, with this Administration and the last one, have done much to simplify FAFSA. But the work is not finished,” said Kristin Hultquist during her opening statement. “It is work that requires Congress to simplify the Pell formula and split it from the Expected Family contribution. Then, and only then, will it be as simple as a lookup table. A simple table for the recently unemployed, the first-generation middle school students in rural communities and cities across the country to know that they are eligible for a Pell Grant is available to support their educational and training needs and improve their futures. Adopting the FAFSA Simplification Act of 2019 will result in the largest expansion of the Pell program in over a decade. Isn’t that the type of consensus-supported change we should adopt to close out this very, very difficult 2020?” 

The witnesses and senators participated remotely using Cisco Webex. Kristin Hultquist was joined by fellow witnesses Kim Cook, Executive Director National College Attainment Network, Rachelle Feldman, Associate Provost And Director Scholarships and Student Aid at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Dr. Bridget Terry Long, Dean and Saris Professor of Education and Economics at Harvard Graduate School of Education, and Dr. Judith Scott-Clayton, Associate Professor of Economics and Education at Columbia University. 

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