Spanberger Urges U.S. Department of Education to Support Students from Family Farms, Fix FAFSA Issues

New Changes to FAFSA Have Caused Many Students Who Grew Up on Family Farms to Receive Significantly Less Financial Aid Than in Previous Years

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Representative Abigail Spanberger — the only Virginian on the U.S. House Agriculture Committee — and more than 20 of her colleagues are pressing the U.S. Department of Education to address ongoing issues stemming from recent changes to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) formula that are impacting students from family farms, particularly those who are continuing their educations.

The changes, implemented by the FAFSA Simplification Act, have resulted in many continuing students from family farm backgrounds receiving less financial aid than in previous years. Requiring dependent students to include the net value of a family farm as an asset on the FAFSA form and the delayed FAFSA timeline have forced many students who would like to continue their educations to choose between transferring schools or dropping out of college. Students who have already began earning their degrees are now finding out that they no longer can afford the cost of attendance after many schools’ enrollment deadlines have already passed.

In a letter sent to U.S. Department of Education Secretary Miguel Cardona — which underscores the impact on students from family farms, Spanberger and her colleagues urged the Department to promptly address ongoing challenges and provide resources to students and families that have received less financial aid than in previous years to help navigate additional hurdles to afford the cost of attendance. Additionally, the lawmakers requested that the Department communicate any expected delays before the upcoming 2025-2026 FAFSA rollout and any resources needed from Congress to provide a smooth process for both current and incoming students.

“Under this new formula, there have been reports of loss of financial aid eligibility for students from families that own farms. Prior to this year, the net value of a family farm was not included on the FAFSA form. Students from farm families must list the net worth of the farm as an asset, leading to an increased SAI. With a higher SAI, students from farm families qualify for less aid, or possibly no aid,” wrote Spanberger and her colleagues. “The new formula does not consider the nature of farm assets compared to traditional investments. The revenue stream for crops and livestock varies significantly year-to-year, and therefore, assets cannot be calculated in the same capacity as traditional investments.”

The lawmakers continued, “In March, the Department announced that students would not be able to make corrections to their FAFSA until the first half of April and encouraged colleges to push back their enrollment deadlines. This created an untenable timeline for continuing students to review aid offers. As a result, many continuing students are just finding out that they cannot afford the cost of attendance at the same time as many schools’ enrollment deadlines have already passed. Students can no longer consider other options.”

Click here to read the letter, and the full letter text is below.

Dear Secretary Cardona,

We are writing to express deep concerns about the impact of the 2024-2025 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) formula changes on continuing undergraduate students, particularly those from family farm backgrounds. We recognize these changes were implemented as a result of the FAFSA Simplification Act. However, these changes have led to troubling reports of students receiving less financial aid than in previous years, forcing some to choose between continuing their education, transferring, or dropping out of college entirely. We urge you to promptly address the challenges with the Student Aid Index (SAI), specifically calculating family farms. Additionally, we request that the Department provide resources to families that have received less financial aid than in previous years to help navigate these additional hurdles to afford the cost of attendance and explore ways to help these families.

Under this new formula, there have been reports of loss of financial aid eligibility for students from families that own farms. Prior to this year, the net value of a family farm was not included on the FAFSA form. Students from farm families must list the net worth of the farm as an asset, leading to an increased SAI. With a higher SAI, students from farm families qualify for less aid, or possibly no aid. The new formula does not consider the nature of farm assets compared to traditional investments. The revenue stream for crops and livestock varies significantly year-to-year, and therefore, assets cannot be calculated in the same capacity as traditional investments.

Moreover, the timeline for sending Institutional Student Information Records (ISIRs) further exacerbated these challenges. The Department announced on January 30th that ISIRs would not be sent to colleges and universities until early March. This delay, coupled with the miscalculation of SAI for dependent students who reported assets, further hindered colleges from receiving ISIR data and sending out financial aid offers to students. In March, the Department announced that students would not be able to make corrections to their FAFSA until the first half of April and encouraged colleges to push back their enrollment deadlines. This created an untenable timeline for continuing students to review aid offers. As a result, many continuing students are just finding out that they cannot afford the cost of attendance at the same time as many schools’ enrollment deadlines have already passed. Students can no longer consider other options. Unlike incoming first-year students, who are comparing multiple offers, these students assumed they would be able to continue their college education and were less likely to have other immediate options.

Therefore, we urge the Department to provide prompt guidance and tailored resources to continuing students from farm families who are receiving less aid than in previous years due to new formula changes. These farm families, whose businesses are vital to our state’s communities and economies, need specialized assistance that considers their unique business model as the Department prepares for the 2025-2026 FAFSA rollout. Additionally, we request that the Department communicate any expected delays before the 2025-2026 FAFSA rollout and any resources needed from Congress to ensure a smooth process for both current and incoming students.

Thank you for your attention to this critical issue. We look forward to your prompt action and response.

###

Recent Posts


Spanberger Backs Bipartisan Effort to Combat Child Sexual Abuse Material Created by Artificial Intelligence

The “Child Exploitation and Artificial Intelligence Expert Commission Act” Would Establish a Commission to Help Law Enforcement Prevent, Detect, & Prosecute AI-Generated Crimes Against Children WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Representative Abigail Spanberger backed bipartisan legislation to crack down on the creation of child sexual abuse material using artificial intelligence (AI). In June 2023, the Federal Bureau […]



Jul 18, 2024
Agriculture

Spanberger Announces More Than $92,000 to Implement Nutrition Program at Carver Center in Culpeper County

These Federal Grant Dollars Will Help Implement a Program Using the Carver Food Enterprise Center’s Commercial Kitchen — Which the Congresswoman Helped Construct by Securing Federal Funds in 2022 — for Monthly Delivery of Local, Healthy Food to Virginia Students WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Representative Abigail Spanberger announced that the Rappahannock-Rapidan Regional Commission (RRRC) received […]



Jul 17, 2024
Press

Spanberger, Virginia Democrats Urge Governor Youngkin to Make IRS Direct File Available in Virginia & Help Virginians Avoid Fees

IRS Recently Opened Direct File to All 50 States After Successful Pilot, But Participation Requires Further Action by Youngkin Administration & Virginia General Assembly WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Representative Abigail Spanberger and Members of Virginia’s congressional delegation urged Governor Glenn Youngkin to take the necessary steps to allow Virginians the option of using the Internal Revenue […]