FAFSA Changes may Pose Risk to Student Aid Process

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid may soon be shorter, but not necessarily better, according to University administrators.

The FAFSA simplification is part of the Obama Administration’s efforts to make aid more accessible to students. The changes include eliminating and revising many of the approximately 150 questions.

In addition, tax return data for the application will automatically be transferred from the Internal Revenue Service.

But Director of Student Financial Services Bill Schilling said the changes risk creating less equity among students.

"It is harder to gauge a family’s true situation with less information," he wrote in an e-mail.

Schilling added that the simplified forms may not contain enough data for state agencies and colleges which also use FAFSA as their application.

"Some of the complexity of the FAFSA is related to its use to meet these needs as well as the Department of Education’s," he wrote.

Schilling explained that the less-detailed form may even cause non-federal agencies to create their own applications.

"Elimination of information could lead to a proliferation of state-specific application forms, which would offset simplification of the federal process," he wrote.

But Dean of Admissions Eric Furda said the simplified form can help families who feel intimidated by its complexities without lessening its value.

"Less can be more as long as the correct questions are being asked," he said.

Approximately 1.5 million students who would be eligible for the Federal Pell Grant Program fail to complete the FAFSA, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

"Students will be able to complete an application with only basic, personal information and a few clicks of their mouse," the DOE wrote in a statement.

Furda added that the revision of FAFSA reflects a movement in the country toward increased college accessibility.

"It really is a matter of having everyone pull in the same direction and align their goals and how they will be realized," he said. "You need support from both the grassroots level and leadership."

The changes will come as part of the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act. The legislation, which passed in the House of Representatives on Sept. 17, must be approved by the Senate before becoming law.


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