Underwood Proposals to Simplify the Student Loan Application Process, Reduce Barriers to Financial Aid, Strengthen TRIO Included in College Affordability Act

October 16, 2019
Press Release

WASHINGTON— Yesterday, Congresswoman Lauren Underwood (IL-14), announced that her proposals to reduce barriers to financial aid, increase transparency in the loan application process, and provide resources for underserved college students were included in the College Affordability Act—a legislative package that would lower the cost of college, increase the quality of higher education, and expand opportunities for a new generation of students.

Legislation introduced by Underwood included in the proposal includes the File Once FAFSA Act (H.R. 4240), the Student Loan Contract Act (H.R. 4241), and the Earl N. Williams First Chance Act (H.R. 3470).

“Higher education is one of the most valuable resources we have, but for many Americans, college is becoming increasingly unaffordable or out of reach,” said Rep. Underwood. “I commend Chairman Scott and the Committee on Education and Labor for their commitment to increasing access to quality higher education which will make college more affordable. I will continue to work with local college presidents and members of my Higher Education Advisory Council to ensure the proposal is inclusive of the needs of Illinois students."

The College Affordability Act would:

  • Lower the cost of college for students and their families by reinvesting in higher education;
  • Eliminate hidden fees that students and families pay to take out student loans;
  • Streamline the burdensome process for taking out and paying off student loans by simplifying the FAFSA and allowing borrowers in income-based repayment plans to automatically recertify rather than filling out paperwork every year;   
  • Crackdown on predatory for-profit colleges that target veterans and can leave students with exorbitant debt and useless degrees;
  • Expand opportunities for students from all backgrounds by allowing Pell Grants to be used for quality, short-term programs that can launch graduates into successful careers while also giving them a pathway to a two- or four-year degree;
  • Create stronger accountability in higher education by blocking access to taxpayer money for institutions that cause a large share of student loan defaults and spend more on marketing and lobbying than on educating students.

Underwood is the only Illinois member on the Committee on Education and Labor and is working to increase transparency and accountability within the Department of Education. In September, Underwood introduced the File Once FAFSA Act (H.R. 4240) and the Student Loan Contract Act (H.R. 4241) to reduce barriers to financial aid and increase transparency in the loan application process. In June, Underwood and Representative Danny K. Davis (D-IL) introduced the Earl N. Williams, Sr., First Chance Act (H.R. 3470) to expand resources to help underserved students succeed in higher education by creating a supplemental living grant to meet basic and unexpected college costs. Underwood’s legislation would strengthen the Student Support Services TRIO program, which supported 200 students at Waubonsee Community College in Fiscal Year 2018. In March, Underwood wrote to the former Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on the Department’s failure to appropriately respond to borrowers who default on their student loans. In the letter, Underwood demanded answers on behalf of borrowers experiencing unacceptably long hold times when contacting the Department to receive clear information about their financial options or reasonable options for getting their payments back on track.