Cummings Investigation Spurs 111 Higher Ed Institutions to Correct Financial Aid Instructions
Washington, D.C. (Mar. 10, 2014)—Today, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, sent a letter to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan informing him that, in response to Cummings’ investigation, 111 institutions of higher education have corrected their financial aid instructions to ensure that they are in full compliance with the Higher Education Act by making clear that applicants are not required to submit fee-based applications to be considered for federal student aid.
The schools made these changes after Cummings sent a letter to Duncan on February 3, 2014, identifying 111 schools that may have been violating federal law by explicitly requiring applicants to submit forms other than the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), or by failing to make clear that students must submit only the FAFSA to apply for federal financial aid.
Cummings’ investigation found that these institutions appeared to be requiring students to complete additional fee-based forms, including the PROFILE form, to be considered for any financial aid—a practice Congress banned in 1992 because it creates undue hurdles for students seeking federal student aid.
“I believe that this is a very positive outcome,” wrote Cummings. “The changes made by these institutions demonstrate a commitment to ensuring that students receive appropriate instructions when applying for financial aid.”
Click here to view the original financial aid instructions of the 111 higher education institutions identified during Cummings’ investigation.
Click here to view the financial aid instruction of the 111 higher education institutions after making changes to comply with the Higher Education Act.
Click here to see Cummings’ March 10, 2014, letter to Secretary Duncan, which is also pasted below:
March 10, 2014
The Honorable Arne Duncan
Secretary of Education
U.S. Department of Education
400 Maryland Avenue, S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20202
Dear Mr. Secretary:
Thank you for your response to my letter of February 3, 2014, and for having Department officials meet with my staff on February 12 regarding my investigation of 111 higher education institutions that may have been contravening the requirements of the Higher Education Act by explicitly requiring applicants to submit forms other than the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) or by failing to make clear that only the FAFSA is required to be considered for federal student aid.
I am writing to inform you that, in the month since I sent my letter, it appears that all 111 of the institutions identified in my investigation have made changes to their websites to clarify their requirements for student aid applications and to ensure that they are in compliance with the law. I am enclosing the list of these schools for your review.
I believe that this is a very positive outcome. The changes made by these institutions demonstrate a commitment to ensuring that students receive appropriate instructions when applying for financial aid, and I continue to hope that, with your ongoing assistance, these institutions will continue to make strides in improving the process for applying for and receiving federal student aid. I appreciate the assistance of the Department of Education and look forward to further collaboration to work towards our shared goal of improving access to a high quality education for all Americans.
Elijah E. Cummings
cc: The Honorable Darrell E. Issa, Chairman