free application for federal student aid is getting simplified

Posted : July 8, 2009
Last Updated : July 8, 2009

free application for federal student aid is getting simplified

New changes are being implemented to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) in order to make the process of applying for student aid easier. Designed to increase postsecondary enrollment, these changes include:

  • A shorter online application that skips unnecessary questions
  • Legislation to remove more than half of the financial questions
  • A web application that allows usage of data from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS)

Skip Logic
The online FAFSA will receive a series of improvements over the next few months to make the application shorter. The Education Department will allow students to be able to skip questions that are irrelevant to their situation. For instance, beginning summer 2009, students who are 24 years old or married and therefore exempt from providing parent financial information will be able to skip eleven questions trying to determine if parental information is necessary. Furthermore, three questions on homelessness will be combined into one straightforward question. In January 2010, another set of improvements will be put into practice by allowing students to skip more questions due to relevance and making it easier to answer questions that the states need but the federal government does not.

Legislative Proposals
When applying for financial aid, students and parents must answer dozens of questions about their income and assets that are not even on the federal tax form. Because these questions are often hard to verify and add little to the aid calculation formula, Congress has been called on to let students and families apply for financial aid with the information on their tax returns and in turn eliminate 26 questions. This would reduce the need for applicants to gather various financial documents and open the door to using IRS data for the remaining financial questions.

Data from IRS
If the proposed legislation is enacted, the only financial questions that would remain on the FAFSA are the ones that rely upon information that applicants must already provide to the IRS. A web application that allows usage of this data from the IRS would streamline this process. Beginning in January 2010, families applying for financial aid for the spring semester will be able to pre-fill 20 of the FAFSA questions using federal income tax return data. The Departments of Education and Treasury will be working together to possibly expand this option to all students in the future.

For more information about this process of simplifying the FAFSA, refer to the U.S. Department of Education's fact sheet.


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