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Letter to the House of Representatives opposing the Westmoreland amendment, which would prohibit printing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid in any language other than English, 7/19/07




Dear Representative:


On behalf of the National Education Association's (NEA) 3.2 million members, we urge you to vote NO on an amendment offered by Representative Westmoreland (R-GA) to the FY08 Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations bill that that would prohibit the printing of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) in any language other than English. 

The FAFSA requires that students provide complex information about income and family history. Even if a student is generally proficient in English, completing the FAFSA requires specialized language skills that, if not presented in the student's native language, may serve as a barrier to Latino participation in higher education. Only U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents may complete the FAFSA and apply for federal student aid.

Passage of this amendment would restrict U.S. citizens' and legal permanent residents' access to financial aid necessary to attend college. Because of the amount of detailed information in the FAFSA regarding a student's family contribution, students often fill out their FAFSAs with their parents or guardians. Although a Latino college applicant may be fully proficient in English, his or her family members may not be. Parents may have trouble providing accurate information if the FAFSA is not available in their native language. 

In addition, the amendment would likely violate Title VI of the Civil Rights Act and Executive Order 13166, which require the U.S. Department of Education to make critical materials available to all persons regardless of language ability.

Sincerely,

Diane Shust, Director of Government Relations

Randall Moody, Manager of Federal Advocacy