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ERIC Number: EJ855262
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2009-Apr-3
Pages: 1
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: 0
ISSN: ISSN-0009-5982
The Complicated Task of Simplifying Student Aid
Field, Kelly
Chronicle of Higher Education, v55 n30 pA15 Apr 2009
The complexity of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (Fafsa) has been well documented and exhaustively discussed: At six pages and 120 questions, it is longer than even the 1040 tax form, with its two pages and 76 questions (not including schedules). The Fafsa's length and unfamiliar language--terms like "emancipated minor" and "unaccompanied youth"--intimidate and confound families and may discourage some people from applying for aid altogether. And the "expected family contribution," which the form yields, tells families how much they must contribute to college but nothing about how much aid they are eligible to receive. Ask almost anyone, and they'll say something has to be done to simplify the form. Commissions have studied how to do it; Congress has tried to legislate it; presidential candidates have promised it. Some desperate families have even begun paying professionals for help with the form, much as they do with their taxes. Nationwide, Fafsa applications are up 21 percent this year. That's not to say that there have not been substantial improvements, particularly for low-income students, since 1992, when Congress created the Fafsa. In 1998, Congress established two simplified formulas for assessing need, permitting low-income students to skip many of the financial questions. In 2007 it raised the income cutoff for using those formulas, making 44 percent of students eligible to use them. Last year Congress directed the Education Department to create a two-page "EZ Fafsa," for some families earning less than $50,000 a year. Meanwhile, the Education Department has incorporated "skip logic" into the online Fafsa, allowing filers to bypass questions that don't pertain to their situation. That can reduce the total number of questions answered to between 25 and 90. The department has also created a "Fafsa4caster" that lets high-school students predict how much aid they will be eligible to receive by filling out a portion of the questions on the Fafsa. In this article, the author discusses the different ways being examined by the U.S. Education Department to make it easier for families to apply for student aid.
Chronicle of Higher Education. 1255 23rd Street NW Suite 700, Washington, DC 20037. Tel: 800-728-2803; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Higher Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A