In keeping with his campaign promises, Obama is leading the U.S. Department of Education in unveiling a new streamlined application form for federal financial aid. The FAFSA has long been criticised as excessively detailed, partially redundant, and adding unecessary hours of effort to parents, students, and financial aid officers.
Of course, since federal financial aid is completely based on a student’s personal (and family’s) financial need, a lot of the information is required for determining who needs the money the most. In recent years, online application forms have been somewhat helpful in making the process easier and more efficient, but these latest reforms with really slash the time involved with financial aid.
The most significant change will be how FAFSA works with hte IRS to deliver financial and income information. Although they’re both federal financial departments, next year will be the first time students can automatically import income data from their IRS filings into the FAFSA form. This means no more looking around for old records – as long as the taxes have been filed for the financial information will be available for the FAFSA form.
There are also a lot of questions about finances that may no longer be considered. In a patchwork effort to make FAFSA more “fair,” they eventually ended up asking even more questions about income and assets than even the IRS. Many parents were obviously uncomfortable with this, and it also played a huge factor in making the financial aid application into a total chore. Since the system is now integrated with the IRS, Obama is asking Congress to save students (and parents!) from providing even more information than the IRS needs. I can’t imagine too many Congress members putting their reputation on the line to defend excessive bureaucracy and longer application forms.
Changes to the website itself will also help students navigate through the required and uncompleted parts of their application more quickly. IT analysts are suggesting this will allow students to finish the application in about half as many pageviews.
Between better website structure and improved integration with IRS records, there are fewer excuses than ever to filing out your FAFSA. There’s never any cost to apply for federal financial aid, and next year, it shouldn’t even take that much time!