Easing a College Financial Aid Headache

The Obama administration is announcing legislation today to simplify the FAFSA form, link it to the IRS to verify family earnings easily and delete 20% of the questions most find redundant and others find intimidating. This form helps 16 million students and families apply for financial aid each year, while an estimated 1.5 million students don’t even bother because of the complexities of the form in its current state.

The FAFSA helps low and middle income students apply for financial aid through Pell Grants, Stafford loans, Perkins loans and college-sponsored work-study programs. Every high school student should be exposed to this form as early as their sophomore and junior years. High schools should provide information to parents of students entering the sophomore year—well before the parents need to complete this form. With a great deal of lead time, parents can get their questions answered, get their financial affairs organized and meet the required deadlines.

Getting ready for college is all about planning, with ample lead time on expectations for both students and parents. Many of the parents and students who stand to benefit most from FAFSA have the least experience or exposure and are often not college graduates. For that reason, they may have little or no frame of reference on preparing for college financially, academically, emotionally or socially. High schools can help these families with early planning programs so that all students can be college eligible and college ready—whether they go straight to college or work a few years first and then go to college.

New York Times
by Tamar Lewin
The Obama administration is moving to simplify the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or Fafsa, a notoriously complicated form that asks students seeking financial aid for college as many as 153 questions.

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