The Impact of the New FAFSA on Farm Families: Different Opinions Surface

Unsettled in Great Falls, Montana, Cody Johannes, a 21-year-old Montana State University junior, has never borrowed for his education but frets about the possibility now.

Coming from Worden, a small Montana community, Johannes hails from a family that manages 300 acres of alfalfa and over 150 Black Angus cows.

Previously, with scholarships and state support, Johannes sailed through his first and second years at MSU without financial worry. However, amid filling out this year’s revised Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), he’s concerned his farming background could lead to increased costs for his senior year.

Cody Johannes, a junior studying animal science and livestock management at Montana State University.

“It’s gonna hurt, for sure,” said Johannes, who is majoring in animal science and livestock management.

Concerns similar to Johannes’ have caught the attention of lawmakers in Washington, with some politicians raising alarm over the potential financial burden on farm families for college education. A group of senators recently penned a letter to Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, claiming insufficient consideration for rural students in the new FAFSA. The implications of the revamped form have sparked nationwide debate, especially among farm families like Johannes’.

According to the senators, the new form fails to understand the dynamics of farm families, signaling potential financial strains for such households. Sen. Joni Ernst highlighted a case from Iowa where families might face over fivefold increase in college costs compared to previous years. The concerns raised underscore the significant impact the new FAFSA can have on rural families.

Experts suggest the situation isn’t as straightforward as political discourse makes it seem, and a deeper understanding is essential to grasp the reality for farm families.

Since the bipartisan legislation on FAFSA’s overhaul in 2020, alterations have been made to address the concerns of rural student advocates, although recent hiccups have sparked criticism from lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

Read more: Millions of students may have just weeks to compare college financial aid offers

The FAFSA delay isn’t easing the concerns of agricultural families, who now have reduced time to review financial aid offers for high school seniors or transfer students.

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