B-206573(1),L/M, MAY 12, 1982

B-206573(1),L/M: May 12, 1982

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NATIONAL DIRECT STUDENT LOANS AND THE COLLEGE WORK-STUDY PROGRAMS ARE PROHIBITED BY SECTION 483. FEES CHARGED FOR FILING THE FINANCIAL AID FORMS AND THE AMERICAN COLLEGE TESTING FORM FOR 1982-1983 SCHOOL YEAR ARE CONTRARY TO THIS PROHIBITION. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: THIS IS IN RESPONSE TO YOUR LETTER DATED MARCH 11. WE HAVE CONCLUDED THAT THE CHARGES ARE PROHIBITED BY SECTION 483(A). STUDENTS ARE NOW BEING CHARGED $6.50 FOR THE FINANCIAL AID FORM (FAF) AND $6 FOR THE AMERICAN COLLEGE TESTING (ACT) FORM. THESE FORMS ARE USED TO DETERMINE FINANCIAL NEED AND ELIGIBILITY OF STUDENTS APPLYING FOR PELL GRANTS (FORMERLY CALLED BASIC GRANTS). ALL BUT THE PELL GRANT PROGRAM ARE CONSIDERED CAMPUS- BASED PROGRAMS BECAUSE THEY ARE ADMINISTERED BY THE FINANCIAL AID ADMINISTRATOR AT THE SCHOOL.

B-206573(1),L/M, MAY 12, 1982

DIGEST: CHARGES FOR FILING STUDENT FINANCIAL AID APPLICATION FORMS COVERING PELL GRANTS, SUPPLEMENTAL EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITY GRANTS, NATIONAL DIRECT STUDENT LOANS AND THE COLLEGE WORK-STUDY PROGRAMS ARE PROHIBITED BY SECTION 483, OF THE HIGHER EDUCATION ACT OF 1965, AS AMENDED. ACCORDINGLY, FEES CHARGED FOR FILING THE FINANCIAL AID FORMS AND THE AMERICAN COLLEGE TESTING FORM FOR 1982-1983 SCHOOL YEAR ARE CONTRARY TO THIS PROHIBITION.

PAUL SIMON, HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES:

THIS IS IN RESPONSE TO YOUR LETTER DATED MARCH 11, 1982, WRITTEN JOINTLY WITH THE HONORABLE E. THOMAS COLEMAN, REQUESTING OUR OPINION ON THE AUTHORITY OF THE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION (THE DEPARTMENT) TO ALLOW STUDENTS TO BE CHARGED A FEE FOR FILING STUDENT FEDERAL FINANCIAL AID APPLICATION FORMS IN VIEW OF THE PROHIBITION AGAINST FEES IN SECTION 483(A) OF THE HIGHER EDUCATION ACT OF 1965, AS AMENDED, PUB.L. NO. 96-374, 94 STAT. 1448, OCTOBER 3, 1980 (TO BE CODIFIED AT 20 U.S.C. SEC. 1090). COMMITTEE STAFF REQUESTED THAT WE NOT OBTAIN THE FORMAL VIEWS OF THE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION. WE HAVE CONCLUDED THAT THE CHARGES ARE PROHIBITED BY SECTION 483(A).

ACCORDING TO YOUR LETTER, STUDENTS ARE NOW BEING CHARGED $6.50 FOR THE FINANCIAL AID FORM (FAF) AND $6 FOR THE AMERICAN COLLEGE TESTING (ACT) FORM. THESE FORMS ARE USED TO DETERMINE FINANCIAL NEED AND ELIGIBILITY OF STUDENTS APPLYING FOR PELL GRANTS (FORMERLY CALLED BASIC GRANTS), SUPPLEMENTAL EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITY GRANTS, NATIONAL DIRECT STUDENT LOANS AND THE COLLEGE WORK-STUDY PROGRAM. SEE SECTIONS 411, 413A, 461 AND 437 OF THE HIGHER EDUCATION ACT OF 1965, AS AMENDED THROUGH PUB.L. NO. 96-374, 94 STAT. 1367, ID. ALL BUT THE PELL GRANT PROGRAM ARE CONSIDERED CAMPUS- BASED PROGRAMS BECAUSE THEY ARE ADMINISTERED BY THE FINANCIAL AID ADMINISTRATOR AT THE SCHOOL. PELL GRANTS ARE ADMINISTERED BY THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT. CERTAIN OTHER STUDENT AID PROGRAMS SUCH AS THE GUARANTEED STUDENT LOAN PROGRAM ARE NOT COVERED BY THIS "COMMON FORM" PROVISION.

THE CHARGING OF FEES FOR THE FAF AND ACT FORMS IS IN APPARENT VIOLATION OF SECTION 483(A) OF THE HIGHER EDUCATION ACT OF 1965, AS AMENDED, ID., WHICH PROVIDES:

"SEC. 483. (A) THE SECRETARY, IN COOPERATION WITH REPRESENTATIVES OF AGENCIES AND ORGANIZATIONS INVOLVED IN STUDENT FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE, SHALL PRESCRIBE A COMMON FEDERAL FINANCIAL AID APPLICATION FORM TO BE USED TO DETERMINE THE NEED AND ELIGIBILITY OF A STUDENT FOR FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE UNDER THIS TITLE (OTHER THAN UNDER SUBPART 3 OF PART A AND UNDER PART B). NO STUDENT OR PARENT OF A STUDENT SHALL BE CHARGED A FEE FOR PROCESSING THE DATA ELEMENTS OF THE FORM PRESCRIBED BY THE SECRETARY. THE SECRETARY SHALL, TO THE EXTENT PRACTICABLE, ENTER INTO NOT LESS THAN THREE CONTRACTS WITH STATES, INSTITUTIONS OF HIGHER EDUCATION, OR PRIVATE ORGANIZATIONS FOR THE PURPOSE OF PROCESSING THE APPLICATION REQUIRED UNDER THIS SUBSECTION AND ISSUING ELIGIBILITY REPORTS. THE SECRETARY MAY ALSO CONTRACT FOR ADDITIONAL SERVICES TO ASSURE COORDINATION OF FINANCIAL AID FROM BOTH FEDERAL AND NON-FEDERAL SOURCES, AND TO PROVIDE INFORMATION, TRAINING AND SIMILAR SERVICES TO INSTITUTIONS, AID OFFICERS, COUNSELORS, LENDERS, PARENTS AND STUDENTS. NOTHING IN THIS SECTION SHALL PROHIBIT STATES, INSTITUTIONS, OR PRIVATE ORGANIZATIONS FROM SIMULTANEOUSLY COLLECTING DATA ELEMENTS, IN ADDITION TO THE DATA ELEMENTS PRESCRIBED BY THE SECRETARY, AS MAY BE NECESSARY TO DETERMINE THE ELIGIBILITY OF A STUDENT FOR FINANCIAL AID FUNDS NOT COVERED BY THIS TITLE (OR COVERED UNDER SUBPART 3 OF PART A OR UNDER PART B OF THIS TITLE)."

THIS SUBSECTION IS EXPLAINED IN THE FOLLOWING EXCERPT FROM S.REP. NO. 96-733 AT P. 51, MAY 15, 1980:

"SECTION 483, 'FORMS AND REGULATIONS,' REPLACES THE PROVISIONS CONTAINED IN SECTIONS 495, 497A AND 411(E)(1) OF CURRENT LAW. IN AN ATTEMPT TO SIMPLIFY THE FINANCIAL AID PROCESS, THE BILL DIRECTS THE SECRETARY, IN COOPERATION WITH AGENCIES AND ORGANIZATIONS INVOLVED IN STUDENT FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE, TO DEVELOP A COMMON FEDERAL FINANCIAL AID APPLICATION FORM TO BE USED TO DETERMINE A STUDENT'S NEED AND ELIGIBILITY FOR THE BASIC GRANT, SUPPLEMENTAL EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITY GRANT, NATIONAL DIRECT STUDENT LOAN, AND COLLEGE WORK-STUDY PROGRAMS. THE COMMITTEE RECOGNIZES THAT DATA ELEMENTS OF THE FORM MAY NEED TO BE PROCESSED FOR PURPOSES OTHER THAN THOSE PRESCRIBED BY THE SECRETARY IN ORDER TO MAKE DETERMINATIONS OF A STUDENT'S NEED AND ELIGIBILITY FOR FUNDS FROM NON-FEDERAL SOURCES. THE SAME TIME, TO AVOID THE PROLIFERATION OF FORMS, THIS PROVISION PERMITS STATES, POSTSECONDARY INSTITUTIONS, AND PRIVATE ORGANIZATIONS TO COLLECT ADDITIONAL DATA ELEMENTS TO MEET THE INFORMATION AND MANAGEMENT SERVICE REQUIREMENTS OF NON-FEDERAL PROGRAMS, INCLUDING THE STATUTORY REQUIREMENTS OF STATE PROGRAMS.

"CURRENTLY STUDENTS AND THEIR PARENTS MAY BE CHARGED FEES FOR PROCESSING APPLICATIONS FOR FEDERAL (EXCLUDING BASIC GRANTS) AND NON-FEDERAL STUDENT AID PROGRAMS. A NEW PROVISION REQUIRES THAT NO FEES WILL BE CHARGED FOR PROCESSING THE DATA ELEMENTS ON THE COMMON FEDERAL APPLICATION FORM PRESCRIBED BY THE SECRETARY AND DIRECTS THE SECRETARY TO CONTRACT FOR PROCESSING OF THE DATA ELEMENTS."

THE HOUSE COMMITTEE REPORT CONTAINS LANGUAGE TO LIKE EFFECT. H.REP. NO. 96-520 AT P. 45, OCTOBER 17, 1979.

THE ONLY ISSUE CONCERNING THIS SUBSECTION THAT REQUIRED RESOLUTION BY THE CONFERENCE COMMITTEE WAS THE QUESTION OF APPENDING OR INCORPORATING ADDITIONAL DATA ELEMENTS FOR NON-FEDERAL STUDENT AID PROGRAMS IN THE GENERAL FINANCIAL AID FORM. THE CONFERENCE COMMITTEE RESOLVED THIS BY DEFINING "SIMULTANEOUSLY COLLECTING" AS IT APPEARS IN THE LAST SENTENCE OF SECTION 483(A) TO INCLUDE "APPENDING TO OR INCORPORATING INTO." H.REP. NO. 96-1337 AT P. 184, SEPTEMBER 17, 1980.

PRIOR TO THE ENACTMENT OF SECTION 483(A), FORMS SUCH AS FAF THAT WERE USED TO APPLY FOR EITHER OR BOTH BASIC GRANTS OR CAMPUS-BASED FEDERAL STUDENT FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE PROVIDED AN OPTION ON THE FORM. IF AN APPLICANT ONLY WANTED TO APPLY FOR THE BASIC GRANT PROGRAM (NOW THE PELL GRANT PROGRAM), THE APPLICANT COULD CHECK A BOX INDICATING THIS INTENT ON THE FORM AND NO FEE WOULD BE CHARGED. APPLICANTS FOR THE CAMPUS-BASED FEDERAL PROGRAMS WOULD BE CHARGED A FEE. THE FEE WAS TO HELP DEFRAY THE COST OF DETERMINING FROM THE FINANCIAL INFORMATION INCLUDED ON THE FORM WHETHER A STUDENT ELIGIBLE FOR FEDERAL FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE GENERALLY QUALIFIED FOR CAMPUS-BASED AID UNDER GUIDELINES ESTABLISHED BY EACH PARTICIPATING INSTITUTION. THE FEE VARIED DEPENDING ON THE NUMBER OF INSTITUTIONS TO WHICH THE APPLICANT REQUESTED FINANCIAL INFORMATION BE SENT. THE FAF FEES FOR THE 1981-82 SCHOOL YEAR BEGAN AT $5.50, IF DATA WAS PROCESSED FOR ONE SCHOOL, AND WOULD GO UP TO $23, IF PROCESSED FOR SIX SCHOOLS. THE NO-FEE PRACTICE FOR THE BASIC GRANT PROGRAM WAS NOT THE RESULT OF LEGISLATION, BUT AN ADMINISTRATIVE DECISION OF THE DEPARTMENT.

THE "COMMON FORM" FOR PURPOSES OF SECTION 483(A) IS NOT AN ACTUAL FORM, BUT THE DATA ELEMENTS PRESCRIBED BY THE SECRETARY THAT ARE REPRODUCED UNDER THE VARIOUS TITLED FORMS SUCH AS FAF AND PUBLISHED BY ORGANIZATIONS UNDER CONTRACT TO THE SECRETARY. ACCORDINGLY, FAF, ACT AND A FEDERAL FORM ENTITLED, "APPLICATION FOR FEDERAL STUDENT AID" ALL QUALIFY AS THE "COMMON FORM." SINCE THE FAF AND ACT FORMS ARE THE "COMMON FORM" THE SECRETARY OF EDUCATION IS REQUIRED TO PRESCRIBE, IT WOULD APPEAR THAT ANY PAYMENT THAT IS REQUIRED FOR PROCESSING THIS FORM WILL VIOLATE THE PROHIBITION OF SECTION 483(A):

"*** NO STUDENT OR PARENT OF A STUDENT SHALL BE CHARGED A FEE FOR PROCESSING THE DATA ELEMENTS OF THE FORM PRESCRIBED BY THE SECRETARY. ***"

THE DEPARTMENT DOES NOT DISPUTE THE CONCLUSION THAT THE FAF AND ACT ARE THE "COMMON FORM" REQUIRED BY SECTION 483(A) AND THAT UNDER THE TERMS OF THE FORMS ALL APPLICANTS USING THEM MUST PAY A FEE. HOWEVER, THE DEPARTMENT HAS TAKEN THE POSITION IN TESTIMONY BEFORE THE SUBCOMMITTEE THAT THE PROHIBITION AGAINST PAYMENT OF FEES GOES ONLY TO THE DATA ELEMENTS RELATED TO PROCESSING THE "CORE" DATA ELEMENTS PERTAINING TO FEDERAL NEED AND ELIGIBILITY REQUIREMENTS, BUT NOT TO THE PROCESSING OF THE ADDITIONAL DATA ELEMENTS NEEDED TO DETERMINE WHO AMONG THOSE ELIGIBLE UNDER FEDERAL STANDARDS WILL RECEIVE ASSISTANCE ON AN INSTITUTION-BY- INSTITUTION BASIS, FROM THE COLLEGE-BASED PROGRAMS LISTED ABOVE. THE DEPARTMENT HAS PROVIDED A SEPARATE APPLICATION FORM, "APPLICATION FOR FEDERAL STUDENT AID," DESIGNED TO BE USED BY APPLICANTS WHO ARE ONLY INTERESTED IN THE PELL GRANT PROGRAM. THIS FORM USES ONLY DATA ELEMENTS USED IN DECIDING WHO RECEIVES PELL GRANT ASSISTANCE. THERE IS NO FEE CHARGED FOR THIS APPLICATION WHICH REPLACES THE NO-FEE OPTION IN THE 1981- 82 FORMS. ACCORDING TO THE DEPARTMENT'S TESTIMONY, THIS FORM WITH INSTRUCTIONS WAS WIDELY DISTRIBUTED, BUT THE DEPARTMENT APPEARS TO CONCEDE THAT THE FORM MAY NOT HAVE BEEN AS WIDELY USED AS INTENDED BY THOSE SEEKING ONLY PELL GRANT ASSISTANCE. THUS, EXCEPT FOR ELIMINATING THE BASIC (PELL) GRANT OPTION MENTIONED ABOVE, THE COMMON FORMS OTHER THAN THE "APPLICATION FOR FEDERAL STUDENT AID" FORM NOW IN USE DO NOT DIFFER ESSENTIALLY IN THE CHARGING OF FEES FROM THOSE USED BEFORE PASSAGE OF SECTION 483(A).

THE DEPARTMENT POINTS OUT THAT UNDER FAF AND ACT THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT PAYS FOR THE COSTS OF PROCESSING THE "CORE" DATA ELEMENTS AND THAT THE FEES CHARGED ARE ONLY USED TO PAY THE COST OF PROCESSING THE ADDITIONAL DATA ELEMENTS. ACCORDING TO THE DEPARTMENT, THE FAF AND ACT FORMS CONTAIN QUESTIONS THAT (A) PROVIDE INFORMATION THAT IS PART OF THE CORE ELEMENTS BUT WHICH CAN BE PROCESSED FOR FURTHER INFORMATION SUCH AS THE VALUE OF THE FAMILY HOME AND (B) QUESTIONS THAT ARE NOT NEEDED TO ANSWER THE CORE DATA ELEMENTS, BUT WHICH ARE USED BY SCHOOLS IN APPLYING THEIR CRITERIA FOR THE FEDERAL CAMPUS-BASED PROGRAMS. THESE QUESTIONS INCLUDE INFORMATION SUCH AS COSTS OF SIBLINGS ATTENDING COLLEGE AND A BREAKDOWN OF PARENTS' ADJUSTED GROSS INCOME. BECAUSE THE BASIC (PELL) GRANT OPTION HAS BEEN REMOVED FROM THE FAF AND ACT FORMS, HOWEVER, STUDENTS USING THESE FORMS TO APPLY ONLY FOR PELL GRANTS NOW MUST PAY THE MINIMUM FEE EVEN IF THEY DO NOT COMPLETE THE SUPPLEMENTARY PORTION OF THE FORM.

THE DEPARTMENT'S POSITION APPEARS TO DEPEND UPON A PARTICULAR READING OF "NEED AND ELIGIBILITY" AS USED IN SECTION 483(A). ACCORDING TO A LEGAL MEMORANDUM PREPARED BY A DEPARTMENTAL ATTORNEY, TO BE ELIGIBLE FOR ASSISTANCE UNDER THE CAMPUS-BASED PROGRAMS, A STUDENT MUST DEMONSTRATE FINANCIAL NEED. THE MEMORANDUM GOES ON TO STATE:

"*** HOWEVER, THE STATUTES DO NOT SET OUT OTHER CRITERIA THAT AN INSTITUTION MUST USE TO SELECT RECIPIENTS FROM THE POOL OF ELIGIBLE STUDENTS WITH DEMONSTRATED NEED. AS A RESULT, THE REGULATIONS FOR THE THREE PROGRAMS DEALING WITH THE SELECTION OF RECIPIENTS, AFTER REPEATING THE ABOVE STATUTORY REQUIREMENT REGARDING NEED, MERELY REQUIRE THAT AN INSTITUTION'S SELECTION CRITERIA BE IN WRITING, UNIFORMLY APPLIED AND MAINTAINED IN THE INSTITUTION'S STUDENT FINANCIAL AID OFFICE. *** THUS, UNDER THE CAMPUS BASED PROGRAM STATUTES AND REGULATIONS, INSTITUTIONS ARE FREE TO DEVELOP REASONABLE CRITERIA TO SELECT AID RECIPIENTS FROM AMONG THE POOL OF STUDENTS ELIGIBLE FOR SUCH ASSISTANCE."

THE DEPARTMENT TAKES THE POSITION THAT CHARGES CAN BE MADE FOR PROCESSING ANY DATA ELEMENT THAT IS USED BY SCHOOLS IN APPLYING THEIR OWN SELECTION CRITERIA FOR THE USE OF FEDERAL FUNDS SINCE THESE CHARGES ARE NOT PERTINENT TO "NEED AND ELIGIBILITY" WHICH WILL HAVE BEEN DETERMINED DURING THE PROCESSING OF THE "CORE" DATA ELEMENTS.

THIS ARGUMENT REQUIRES THAT "NEED AND ELIGIBILITY" BE LIMITED TO THE FAMILY CONTRIBUTION REQUIREMENTS (SEE SECTION 482 OF THE HIGHER EDUCATION ACT OF 1965 AS ADDED BY PUB.L. NO. 96-374, 94 STAT. 1445, ID.) THAT ARE PART OF THE DETERMINATION OF FEDERAL "ELIGIBILITY" FOR THE PROGRAMS COVERED BY THE COMMON FORM, BUT NOT TO SUCH REQUIREMENTS AS THE BREAKDOWN OF PARENTS' ADJUSTED GROSS INCOME USED BY INDIVIDUAL INSTITUTIONS TO DETERMINE THE AWARDING OF FINANCIAL AID. THIS IS A STRAINED CONSTRUCTION OF "NEED AND ELIGIBILITY" IN THE CONTEXT OF SECTION 483(A) SINCE THE LAST TWO SENTENCES OF THIS SECTION APPEAR ON THEIR FACE TO DISTINGUISH BETWEEN DATA ELEMENTS THAT PERTAIN TO THE FEDERAL PROGRAMS, INCLUDING THE CAMPUS- BASED PROGRAMS, AND NON-FEDERAL PROGRAMS; I.E., "NEED AND ELIGIBILITY" COVERS ALL THE INFORMATION NECESSARY FOR THE STUDENT TO OBTAIN THE FEDERAL AID FROM THE GOVERNMENT OR THE SCHOOL IN THE CASE OF THE CAMPUS-BASED PROGRAMS. ALL DATA ELEMENTS THAT PERTAIN TO ALL THE FEDERAL PROGRAMS APPAR TO BE CONTEMPLATED AS PART OF THE COMMON FORM. THE LEGISLATIVE HISTORY ALSO CLEARLY LABELS THE OTHER DATA ELEMENTS THAT WOULD SUPPLEMENT THE FORM AS PERTAINING TO " *** NON-FEDERAL PROGRAMS, INCLUDING THE STATUTORY REQUIREMENTS OF STATE PROGRAMS." S.REP. NO. 96-733, ID. IF THE FORM WAS INTENDED TO DISTINGUISH BETWEEN DATA ELEMENTS USED BY THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT AND THE ELEMENTS USED BY THE SCHOOLS IN ADMINISTERING THE CAMPUS-BASED FEDERAL PROGRAMS, WE WOULD EXPECT IT TO HAVE BEEN MENTIONED. WE NOTE THAT EVEN THE DEPARTMENT'S OWN "THE STUDENT GUIDE: FIVE FEDERAL FINANCIAL AID PROGRAMS 1982-83," DOES NOT DEFINE "NEED AND ELIGIBILITY" AS MEANING THE AMOUNT OF REQUIRED FAMILY CONTRIBUTION (WHICH WOULD BE RELEVANT FOR PURPOSES OF DETERMINING ELIGIBILITY FOR ANY OF THE FEDERAL PROGRAMS) BUT AS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE COST OF EDUCATION AT A GIVEN SCHOOL AND THE AMOUNT THE STUDENT AND THE STUDENT'S FAMILY CAN AFFORD TO PAY (THE EXPECTED FAMILY CONTRIBUTION).

BUT EVEN ACCEPTING FOR THE SAKE OF ARGUMENT THAT "NEED AND ELIGIBILITY" IN SECTION 483(A) ONLY MEANS "EXPECTED FAMILY CONTRIBUTION," WE CANNOT AGREE WITH THE DEPARTMENT'S POSITION ON THE PAYMENT OF THE FEES FOR THREE REASONS. FIRST, IMPLICIT IN THE DEPARTMENT'S ARGUMENT IS THE ASSUMPTION THAT THE SECRETARY ONLY "PRESCRIBES" THAT PORTION OF THE FORM THAT COMPRISES THE "CORE" DATA ELEMENTS. THIS WAS NOT THE INTENT BEHIND SECTION 483(A). AS CAN BE SEEN FROM THE LEGISLATIVE HISTORY, ABOVE, THE PURPOSE OF SECTION 483(A) WAS TO CREATE A SINGLE FORM WHERE AN APPLICANT CAN PROVIDE ALL THE INFORMATION NEEDED TO OBTAIN AID UNDER THE FEDERAL PROGRAMS USING THE FORM. ACCORDINGLY, THE "COMMON FORM" THAT THE SECRETARY "PRESCRIBES" MUST INCLUDE DATA ELEMENTS DEVELOPED IN COORDINATION WITH SCHOOLS FOR THEIR USE IN ADMINISTERING THE CAMPUS-BASED PROGRAMS, AS WELL AS THE "CORE" DATA. THE PROHIBITION SAYS THAT THERE MAY BE NO FEE CHARGED FOR THE DATA ELEMENTS OF THE COMMON FORM. WHILE SECTION 483(A) DIRECTS THE SECRETARY TO PRESCRIBE A FORM TO BE USED TO DETERMINE FINANCIAL "NEED AND ELIGIBILITY," IT DOES NOT APPEAR TO US TO CONTEMPLATE THAT THE COMMON FORM WILL BE LIMITED TO THESE DATA ELEMENTS EVEN IF THE DEPARTMENT'S INTERPRETATION OF THIS PHRASE IS ACCEPTED. AS ALREADY POINTED OUT, THE "COMMON FORM" DATA ELEMENTS ARE ONLY DISTINGUISHED IN SECTION 483(A) AND THE LEGISLATIVE HISTORY FROM NON-FEDERAL PROGRAMS, CONFIRMING THE INITIAL IMPRESSION THAT THE COMMON FORM WOULD ENCOMPASS MORE THAN "NEED AND ELIGIBILITY" ON THE FEDERAL LEVEL. THE PROHIBITION IS AGAINST CHARGING A FEE FOR "DATA ELEMENTS OF THE FORM," NOT AGAINST A CHARGE FOR DETERMINING FEDERAL "NEED AND ELIGIBILITY."

SECOND, THE FAF, FOR EXAMPLE, REQUIRES THAT A MINIMUM $6.50 FEE ACCOMPANY THE FORM. PAYMENT OF THIS FEE BECOMES A CONDITION TO THE PROCESSING OF ANY INFORMATION. THE DEPARTMENT'S POSITION IS BASED ON THE VIEW THAT THE COSTS OF DATA PROCESSING CAN BE ALLOCATED BETWEEN "CORE" AND "SUPPLEMENTARY" DATA EVEN THOUGH SECTION 483(A) DOES NOT SUGGEST ANY BASIS FOR ALLOCATION. THE PROHIBITION SPEAKS FROM THE VIEWPOINT OF THE STUDENT OR PARENT. FROM THIS VIEWPOINT, IT IS DIFFICULT TO CONSIDER THE CHARGE OTHER THAN AS "A FEE FOR PROCESSING THE DATA ELEMENTS OF THE FORM PRESCRIBED BY THE SECRETARY."

THIRD, SINCE THE 1981-82 FAF MINIMUM FEE FOR DATA PROCESSING FOR CAMPUS- BASED PROGRAMS WAS $5.50 AND IS NOW $6.50 AND NO FEES HAD PREVIOUSLY BEEN CHARGED FOR PELL GRANTS, IT IS DIFFICULT TO SEE WHAT RESULT CONGRESS COULD HAVE INTENDED BY THE FEE PROHIBITION IF THE DEPARTMENT'S VIEW IS ACCEPTED. CONGRESS WAS NOT CODIFYING THE STATUS QUO. THE SENATE REPORT, ID., CLEARLY CONNECTS THE PROHIBITION OF FEES TO THE PREVIOUSLY EXISTING PRACTICE OF CHARGING FEES FOR PROCESSING FORMS FOR CAMPUS-BASED PROGRAMS.

FOR THESE REASONS WE CONCLUDE THAT THE FEES CHARGED FOR PROCESSING THE FAF AND ACT FORMS ARE CONTRARY TO THE PROHIBITION OF FEES CONTAINED IN SECTION 483(A) OF THE HIGHER EDUCATION ACT, AS AMENDED.