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Ernst, Tester Fight for Families to Get A Fair Shot in Financial Aid Regardless of Farm, Small Business Ownership

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senators Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) and Jon Tester (D-Montana) introduced the Family Farm and Small Business Exemption Act to reverse recent changes to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) process that could reduce or even eliminate access to need-based student aid for farm families and small business owners.


“Parents should not be forced to leverage their business to ensure their child has access to financial aid. That’s why I’m working hard to ensure Iowa families are not disadvantaged in the FAFSA application process,” said Ernst, ranking member of the Senate Small Business Committee and member of the Senate Ag Committee.“Small businesses and family farms are vital to rural America, and this legislation ensures the next generation of students will have the opportunity to pursue higher education should they choose to do so.”


“As a third-generation farmer, I know firsthand that one-sizes-fits-all policies from Washington too often don’t work for Montana’s family farmers, ranchers, and small businesses,” said Tester. “That’s why I’m teaming up with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to make sure farm families don’t have to pay a higher price to send their kids to college. This bipartisan bill will pave the way for young Montana leaders to succeed well into the future while ensuring our family farmers can continue to feed the world.”


"NASSGAP is pleased to support Sen. Ernst’s efforts to keep pathways to student financial aid open for children of hard-working family farmers and small business owners,” said the National Association of State Student Grant and Aid Programs.


“Iowa College Aid is pleased that Senator Ernst is taking action to address this issue on behalf of the many Iowans it will impact. Ensuring that the value of family farms and small businesses continue to be exempt from the federal financial aid formula guarantees that the FAFSA simplification process will expand access to postsecondary education as intended without negatively affecting students from families who own farms or small businesses,” said Iowa College Aid.


"Community Colleges like Iowa Central strive to have students complete their degrees and or certifications in the shortest amount of time with the least amount of student loan debt possible, so they can have a better life. By protecting small business owners as well as family farmers, this bill will eliminate an undue burden on students trying to better themselves and earn a degree so they can have a better life,” said Iowa Central Community College.


“I’m very appreciative of Senator Ernst’s voice speaking on behalf of farm families. We milk 570 cows, have 450 heifers and a 2500 swine facility, along with 1500 acres of cropland. We function on a day by day basis with a minimum amount of cash flow and valuing our assets into our children's financial aid package would more than likely result in them getting no aid for college.  We will have a son and daughter in college next fall who would like to further their education & bring it back to our family farm,” said Darcy Wemark, Iowa family farm owner.


Ernst and Tester are joined on the bill by Senators Grassley (R-Iowa), Lummis (R-Wyo.), Moran (R-Kans.), Ricketts (R-Neb.), and Braun (R-Ind.).




An analysis by Iowa College Aid found that currently, a farm family with an income of $60,000 and a farm of median value would be expected to contribute $7,626 annually toward their child’s education. Under the new formula, that same family would be expected to contribute $41,056, and some families would be excluded from aid altogether.


In March, Senator Ernst co-led a letter to the Department of Education warning of the potential impacts of the FAFSA Simplification Act on need-based student aid.