FAFSA Dreams

Mention “FAFSA” to people in certain circles and you’ll get an earful coming back at you. FAFSA stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid; it’s the form that students and parents fill out to apply for financial aid. Both government and institutions use data from the form to determine financial aid awards. The circles of people who will have something to say include students and their families, admissions and financial aid officials, scholars and activists who work in the higher education realm, and politicians.

In today’s Times Lamar Alexander, Republican senator from Tennessee who is a former secretary of education and Michael Bennet, a Democratic senator from Colorado and former superintendent of schools, argue for a super-simplified FAFSA and a whole other slew of federal financial aid reforms in a bill they are co-sponsoring.

  • Simpler form (2 questions)
  • Submit it earlier in process (so kids would know early in the college application process)
  • Pell grants could be used year round
  • Federal student loan repayment programs reduced to two: income based and 10 year option

Whether one agrees with proposal or not, an important piece of the policy debate is highlighted in their argument: the present system has billions of hidden costs in the amount of time students and families spend providing the information, schools and the government spend processing it, and what schools spend auditing the process.

The Opinion Pages | OP-ED CONTRIBUTORS

An Answer on a Postcard

Simplifying Fafsa Will Get More Kids Into College

WASHINGTON — THIS year, more than 20 million college students will complete the dreaded 108-question Free Application for Federal Student Aid, commonly known as the Fafsa. Most do it again every year they’re in school. Some pay someone to help them. Colleges hire thousands of staff members to assist. Too many students are so intimidated by the form that they don’t bother to apply.
The Fafsa has 10 pages of detailed questions, explained by 72 pages of instructions, to complete an application that could be just two questions.
To give millions of hours back to American families, to remove what stands in the way of some students’ going to college and to save dollars that could be better spent on instruction, we are proposing legislation to reduce the federal financial aid application to a form the size of a postcard.

Author: Dan Ryan

I'm currently an Academic Program Director at MinervaProject.com. I've been a professor at University of Toronto, University of Southern California, and Mills College teaching things like human centered design, computational thinking, modeling for policy sciences, and social theory. I'm driven by the desire to figure out how to teach twice as many twice as well twice as easily.

One thought on “FAFSA Dreams”

  1. They'll have to change the entire Federal formula for calculating EFC, not that that would be a bad thing.
    On the other hand, much of the information on the FAFSA does a pretty good job of giving enough information to really figure out who has the resources (hidden or not) and who doesn't. For those who don't have the resources, all the questions are intimidating because they usually only have to fill out the 1040 EZ. Those that do have resources (some of which the feds have decided don't have to count in EFC) aren't so intimidated; plus, for those people, the FAFSA gives fa directors important information to locate resources that are there but not obvious.
    So, what we need is a FAFSA and a FAFSA-EZ.

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