TX Rural Students Face College Shutout Without Changes to FAFSA
Friday, May 12, 2023
Texas educates more rural students than any other state at nearly 700,000, and there is concern a new law meant to simplify applying for college financial aid could make it more difficult for farm kids to attend.
In 2020, Congress passed the FAFSA Simplification Act, a formula used to determine how much financial aid students can receive. It eliminated a long-standing provision for how farm families determine income, excluding nonliquid farm assets, such as farmland, equipment, storage structures and more.
Nick Fouriezos, a journalist for Open Campus, said without a fix, college could be out of reach for a whole generation of farm-raised kids.
"If you had a family farm, you didn't have to calculate the net worth of the farm because a family farm isn't something you can just piece up and sell when it's time to go to college," Fouriezos explained. "Maybe if it was a stock, you could sell it. You can't sell the auger that you're using to make a living on the family farm."
A bipartisan group of U.S. senators led by Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, has introduced a bill to restore the exemption. Last year, the average farm family was expected to contribute around $8,000 to their college student's tuition. The figure would climb to $41,000 next year, according to an Iowa College Student Aid Commission study.
Fouriezos acknowledged rural students graduate from high school at higher rates than those in urban areas, but are less likely to obtain a two- or four-year college degree, and do not need more barriers to attending postsecondary education.
"You add something like this, which could greatly, greatly increase the actual costs that they're bearing, and their inability to access certain scholarships and resources and, I mean, it could make a huge difference," Fouriezos observed.
It is estimated more than 85% of college students, or almost 18 million, currently receive some type of financial aid.
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