The head of the Department of Education outlined on Wednesday a proposal to simplify the application for college financial aid making it faster, shorter and more user friendly.
The department is making major changes to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA eliminating 20 percent of the questions and 50 percent the number of web pages to navigate. The Department of Education will also use financial data that the IRS already has, Education secretary Arne Duncan said Wednesday at a press conference in the White House.
Secretary Duncan said the improvements to the form were a done deal and did not required legislation, adding it is a major move for the country since the form itself presented an obstacle for tens of thousands of students to go to college.
The move is in line with President Barack Obama's vision to make the U.S. the country with the highest proportion of college graduates in the world, Duncan said. The new form will go online in January and moving ahead will become simpler and simpler, Duncan said.
The Department's plan for streamlining the FASFA is:
Since May 2009, the Education Department has provided instant estimates of Pell Grant and student loan eligibility, rather than forcing applicants to wait weeks. Links to graduation rates and other college information are also provided;
Available summer 2009, enhanced skip-logic used in the new web-based FAFSA will reduce user navigation for many applicants by more than half;
Starting in January 2010, students applying for financial aid for the spring semester will be able to seamlessly retrieve their relevant tax information from the IRS for easy completion of the online FAFSA. The Department of Education and the IRS will be working together to examine the possibility of expanding this option to all students in the future.
The Administration will also introduce legislation seeking statutory authority from Congress to eliminate financial information from the aid calculation formula that is not available from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). This will remove 26 financial questions from the FAFSA form that have little impact on aid awards and can be difficult to complete. Only questions that rely upon information that applicants must already provide to the IRS would remain.