Friday, 11 June 2021

Draft registration requirement for Federal student aid to be ended soon

The requirement for men age 18 and older to have registered with the Selective Service System for a possible military draft in order to be eligible for Federal student aid including Federally-guaranteed private student loans will be phased out over the next two months, according to an official letter to college and university financial administrators published today by the U.S. Department of Education.

The so-called Solomon Amendment linking Federal student aid to draft registration was overridden by provisions of the FAFSA Simplification Act included in an omnibus appropriations bill enacted in December 2020. The FAFSA Simplification Act also overrode another provision of Federal law making people convicted of certain drug offenses ineligible for life for Federal student aid.

The FAFSA Simplification Act of 2020 gave the Dept. of Education until July 2023 to implement these changes, presumably because of the lead time needed to develop a new version of the FAFSA financial aid application form — a form with more questions, and often more complicated to fill out, than an IRS Form 1040 tax return. But the act authorized the Department of Education to put some or all of the changes into effect sooner, if it could do so.

The letter published today says the Secretary of Education plans to issue an official notice in the Federal Register “in the coming days” restoring eligibility for Federal student aid to those who haven’t registered for the draft and/or have been convicted of drug offenses.

The questions about Selective Service registration and drug convictions will remain on the FAFSA form until a revised version is released for the 2023-2024 school year. But financial aid institutions (colleges, universities, and other lenders) will be allowed to disregard the answers to these questions and start awarding Federal student aid to nonregistrants as soon as the notice from the Secretary of Education is published in the Federal Register. These institutions will be required to implement this change, i.e. to ignore the answers to these questions on the FAFSA form and award Federal student aid without regard for draft registration or drug convictions, as of 60 days from whenever the notice is published in the Federal Register.

[Update: The official notice was published in the Federal Register on 17 June 2021, and is effective 16 Augist 2021.]

This is far from a complete repeal of state and Fderal “Solomon Amendments” related to draft registration and higher education. State laws making Selective Service registration a condition of state student aid and enrollment in state colleges and universities in some states are unaffected by these changes to Federal law, Federal regulations, and the FAFSA form.

[Update: On 23 September 2021, Gov. Newsom of California signed SB 169, an omnibus state education funding bill that includes a provision eliminating Selective Service registration as a requirement for students to apply for Cal Grants for higher education. This is important in California and as a precedent, but similar laws remain on the books in some other states.)

Because the obsolete questions about Selective Service registration and drug convictions will remain on the FAFSA form for another two years, and will mislead many young men into registering for the draft, it will be important for all those who oppose draft registration to help spread the word that these questions can be ignored without penalty:

There will still, for the next two years, be a box on the FAFSA form saying “Register me with the Selective Service System”, but you no longer have to check this box or have registered for the draft to be eligible for student aid.

Link | Posted by Edward on Friday, 11 June 2021, 13:00 ( 1:00 PM)
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