CAP: ‘Mainstream’ No More?

, Spencer Irvine, Leave a comment

The Center for American Progress (CAP) continues to buck its so-called “progressive” label with each report and analysis it publishes. The latest critique’s title says it all, “Unequal Aid: Discriminatory Treatment of Gay and Transgender Applicants and Families Headed by Same-Sex Couples in the Higher Education Financial Aid Process.”

The author Crosby Burns begins this interesting left-wing critique by stating how much federal money goes into financial aid (approximately $134 billion), and that 66% of all undergraduate students receive federal financial aid of some type to help pay for their tuition and other college expenses. He then delves into how discriminatory the current practice is to exclude children of homosexual couples as well as transgender students. The rising cost of tuition is cited in the critique, and how the current discrimination against homosexual and transgender applicants will make it more difficult for them to pay for higher education.

The report gives the background of the financial aid process, commonly known to college students as FAFSA, or Free Application for Student Aid. In the year 2010, over 21 million students applied for FAFSA grants in order to pay for rising tuition costs. In order to calculate whether applicants qualify for financial aid, FAFSA estimates the total amount students and their families will be able to fund their college education with, which includes how much income the family or heads of household earns and how large the household is. FAFSA determines several types of financial aid, such as work-study programs, grants, or loans.

The CAP study then rips into the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) as discriminating against marriage of same-sex couples, which prevents children of homosexual couples from receiving financial aid for a college education. It laments the fact that some of the questions regarding family background are not gender neutral and leaves no leeway for homosexual households. However, in some states, there are loopholes in FAFSA. For example, New Jersey allows homosexual couples to adopt children, but more often than not, only one member of the couple is listed as the legally recognized parent. This allows for the circumventing of the FAFSA gender question in order to get financial aid.

The bulk of the report details the legal ramifications of DOMA and FAFSA and how the former prevents many children of homosexual couples from paying for college. The issues that FAFSA applicants have when they come from homosexual couples are the following, according to CAP:

  • Children with homosexual parents
  • Applicants with homosexual spouses and dependent children


For example, one question that CAP addresses is “what happens when one legally recognized parent has a low income?” If the legally recognized parent has a low income, the financial aid is impacted, meaning that the child will receive a large financial aid package even if it does not reflect on the actual situation (i.e. if the homosexual spouse earns more than the legally recognized parent). Also, the fact that FAFSA creates a logistical problem for homosexual couples is to blame. For example, in 2007-2008, 2.3 million students would have qualified for Pell Grants, but failed to fill out the necessary paperwork due to “its overwhelming complexity.” The tax code is also attacked, stating that FAFSA relies heavily on both tax status and the sex of the parents, which complicates the financial aid process even further. In the end, CAP criticizes everything but homosexuality for the problems with getting financial aid.

The recommendations do not surprise any reader who even skims over this report. The first policy recommendation is to repeal DOMA because “ensuring financial aid is distributed equitably in the interests of aid recipients and taxpayers is one of many reasons Congress should swiftly repeal DOMA.” Another recommendation is to legally recognize and allow homosexual adoptions in the U.S., overriding state sovereignty as in the case of Mississippi (which does not allow homosexual adoptions). Regarding government agencies, CAP suggests the recognition of “families headed by same-sex couples to the fullest extent under existing law” and “modify the FAFSA”.

The final pages of the report go into detail on specific homosexual and transgender applicant issues, ranging from Selective Service conflicts, government identification markers, and those who come from hostile family situations.

Unfortunately, in the name of fairness, CAP does not address the true issue behind the rising costs of tuition: faculty pension and benefits. As stated by a retired professor in Illinois (insert link to Rubinstein article here), their benefits far outweigh the actual work and research time that professors put in. Their counterparts receive far fewer benefits in the private sector, making jobs in higher education that much more valuablein order to have a secure future and retirement. Another aspect of rising tuition costs is the focus of many universities on collegiate sports and the costs universities incur to put their stamp on athletic programs. Students are now burdened by higher student costs to offset increased budgets for athletic programs. CAP also fails to address the morality behind DOMA and the issues some Americans have towards homosexual marriage, as illustrated in the controversy of the approval of California’s Proposition 8 by voters and its overruling by a homosexual San Francisco judge.



Burns, Crosby. 2011. “Unequal aid: Discriminatory treatment of gay and transgender applicants and families headed by same-sex couples in the higher education financial aid process.” Center for American Progress. August.


Spencer Irvine is a research assistant at Accuracy in Academia.

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