Streamlined Process for Federal Student Aid

Education Secretary Arne Duncan is expected to announce today an effort to
streamline the complicated process of applying for federal financial aid for

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which includes more
than 100 questions about income and assets, is so difficult that some parents
pay private companies to fill it out for them or just give up. By Education
Department estimates, about 1.5 million students would probably be eligible for
Pell grants — which are for low-income families — but do not apply.

The federal government collects much of the same information on tax forms. In
a pilot program that begins in January, students who apply for aid for the
spring semester will be able to get their tax data from the Internal Revenue
Service online so they can more easily complete the application. That option
eventually may be expanded to all students.

Because of the recession, federal aid applications have increased by 12
percent over this time last year.

Education Department officials said Duncan will ask Congress to let students
apply based on the information on tax returns rather than requiring additional
documentation such as statements on investments, untaxed income and bank
accounts, as they must now.

Duncan also will propose shortening and simplifying the online application,
which most students use, by dropping some questions. Families would be able to
fill out a "smarter" online form that would quickly provide information about
whether they are likely to be eligible for aid.

"We have to educate our way to a better economy," Duncan said in a statement
yesterday. "The FAFSA improvements will reduce the burden on the 16 million
students and families who apply for federal financial aid every year, and are
designed to help increase college enrollment among low-income and middle-income
students." (The Washington Post)

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