Meng Legislation Seeking to Create Student Aid Forms in Languages Spoken by Queens Residents Passed by House
Jul 29, 2014
U.S. Rep. Grace Meng’s (D-Queens) legislation that aims to create college financial aid applications in other languages spoken by Queens residents was passed by the full House of Representatives. The measure now heads to the Senate.
The legislation requires the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) to study the needs of limited-English-proficient students using the “Free Application For Student Aid (FAFSA)” form. Translated FAFSA forms, particularly for the top ten languages spoken in America, other than English, would significantly reduce language barriers that make it difficult for many Queens students and their families to understand and properly apply for financial aid. Presently, FAFSA applications – which are used by most college students in the U.S. – are available only in English and Spanish. The top ten languages, as determined by the American Community Survey, administered by the U.S. Census Bureau, includes Spanish, Chinese, French, Tagalog, Vietnamese, German, Korean, Russian, Italian and Portuguese.
Meng’s legislation originally required the DOE to translate the forms into the top languages and post them on its website. The version that passed, which directs DOE to study the matter, was a compromise insisted upon by the Republican majority in the House.
“While this legislation would not require the DOE to translate FAFSA forms into the most popular languages, it is still an unprecedented first step towards achieving that important goal,” said Meng. “Queens is arguably the most diverse county in America with people from all around the world, speaking many different languages residing here. The cost of higher education continues to skyrocket, and all students and families in the borough – regardless of how proficient they are in English – are entitled to seek the same financial aid they need to help pay for college. Those who face significant language barriers should not be forced to rely on for-profit companies that charge hundreds of dollars to translate this free application. Language access must no longer be a barrier to college. The process must be made easier.”
"Last year, Congresswoman Meng and I contacted the U.S. Department of Education after learning that Korean-speaking families were being taken advantage of by so-called 'educational consultants' who promised to assist in translating and completing FAFSA forms,” said Assemblyman Edward C. Braunstein (D-Bayside) who brought the FAFSA translation issue to Meng’s attention. “After paying over $1,000, the families never received anything in return from the consultants. Incidents like these highlight the importance of Congresswoman Meng's legislation, which is a significant victory for families for which English is a second language. I am proud to have worked with Congresswoman Meng to advance this cause and I thank her for her outstanding leadership."
“I want to thank Rep. Meng for her advocacy on this important issue,” said State Senator Toby Ann Stavisky (D-Flushing). “We are both lucky enough to represent one of the most diverse counties in the country and are both committed to ensuring that our constituents have access to every part of the American Dream, regardless of their English proficiency. In New York, we have already successfully translated ballots and applications to programs like SCRIE and EPIC. Under the leadership of Rep. Meng, I hope the federal government follows suit and makes translations of the FAFSA form available in our country’s most widely-spoken languages.”
Meng’s legislation was passed as part of the Advancing Competency-Based Education Demonstration Project Act, a broader higher-education bill that was moving through the House. Her measure was approved by voice vote. In addition to conducting the study, it requires the DOE to report its findings to Congress.
FAFSA is the DOE’s main financial aid application for student loans, grants and work study-funds for college and career schools. Applications are available on the DOE’s FAFSA website at https://fafsa.ed.gov/. To view a FAFSA form, go to https://studentaid.ed.gov/sites/default/files/2014-15-fafsa.pdf.