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Fixing FAFSA: Acquiring Financial Aid to be Easier, Quicker

Fixing FAFSA: Acquiring Financial Aid to be Easier, Quicker
Susan Dutca-Lovell

If you've ever had to fill out a FAFSA for college, you may have felt as though you need an accounting degree to understand it, much less complete it. With over 130 questions and averaging 30 minutes to complete, the complexity and tedium of filing for financial aid has been a barrier for students in attending college or receiving the financial aid for which they qualify. The Department of Education announced an initiative Monday to simplify the process and beginning in October 2016, students and their families will be able to complete a simpler FAFSA application.

Currently, students must wait until after most college application deadlines to apply for federal aid - the new FAFSA amendments will enable application as early as October 1 and better align students with college deadlines. The current January 1 application opens after many college application periods have closed and students may not know their entire financial aid package before committing to a college. With the new amendments, students will have a better understanding of the actual cost of their college education. Federal Student Aid awards $150 billion in grants, loans and other types of financial assistance annually. Sadly, about 2 million students enrolled in college who would qualify for a Federal Pell Grant never applied for aid. With the new initiative, the plan to improve the process of applying for federal aid will include:

  • Earlier application - Information for the FAFSA will be readily available around the same time high school students are searching for, and applying to college, meaning less pressure and stress. The current FAFSA application opens January 1 and cannot be completed until after April 15, when tax forms are due.
  • Simpler application - A new data retrieval tool will allow applicants to electronically access tax information directly from the IRS, after filing their 2015 tax returns. This means less income estimates and errors and more accuracy.
  • More students assisted - It is estimated that hundreds of thousands of students, especially first-generation and minority students, will apply for and enroll in college as a result of a simpler FAFSA. In 2013, roughly $45 million was left on the table in Pell Grants due to the complexity of the application.
  • More colleges assisted - As many as 3 million hours are spent annually by colleges and universities verifying FAFSA Information. With the new data retrieval tool from the IRS, colleges and universities will have less trouble verifying tax return information.
  • Do you think the new amendments to the current FAFSA will benefit students as they apply for financial aid earlier and with a simpler application? If you are interested in learning more about FAFSA, federal aid, grants and scholarships, read some of our tips on funding your college education.

    Comments (12)
    Anna R. 10/9/2015
    I believe Fasfa needed to make it extremely simple and less time consuming from the beginning and I will be happy to see the new changes.
    Ashlee B 10/7/2015
    New amendments will definitely benefit. Speaking from experience, sometimes when filling out the FAFSA app, I would get frustrated on certain parts and just exit out for that day, which makes the process longer. The main part that gets complicated is the estimate income tax questions. It would be a lot better if there was a way to pull up all that information by just collecting out name and social security. Overall, the new amendments to the FAFSA app will benefit tremendously.
    Anthony Padilla 10/3/2015
    Ready to go to college. I need information for all Pell grants to apply to the school I want to spend 4 yrs at.
    Teresa W 10/1/2015
    It's sad to see the comments of future college students who can't spell and don't utilize their computer's spell checker!
    I am a student at JKUAT university doing medical l 10/1/2015
    if given a scholarship i will greatly appreciate
    Jay T. 9/30/2015
    Yes, the community college is looking for a Director of Financial Aid. I don't know if this is the reason, but I have emailed my forms to them & keep getting the same response:"wait 2 business days." 2+ wks. of hearing that. When I call them, they say they haven't received any forms; then, yes, but need these forms. Want tax info. from IRS but didn't work 2014. Is marked on FAFSA form "did not file." IRS can't give any info. when there's none to give. Keep getting different answers as to status of processing FAFSA. Don't know what they're doing. Suggestions? Thanks.
    Lillian A 9/29/2015
    I wonder why when you apply for FASA. there is not questions asked about a students finance situation. It does not ask if a student has to pay rent, have to pay for car insurance, car payments etc. If I work part time after school, I have to claim that on my FASA and it is added to my parents taxes as income earned, Don.t they realize I am trying to save for my additional college expense I will incur after my two yr at a SUNY is over and I want two continue my education at another college. How can I save if it affects my FASA funds given to me? I am puzzled.
    Con Pare 9/29/2015
    With a graduate student I am particularly concerned about the current policy of not allowing consolidation until the student graduates. This policy benefits the banks to the detriment of the students. Theoretically students can end up paying an additional year of interest and lose a year in reduction on the life of a loan. It appears everything is done to benefit the banks including not permitting refinancing of current loans to far more currently competitive interest rates as widely available and regularly done on home or auto refinace loans.
    goodson mulambiaEnter your firstnd last initial he 9/27/2015
    I will be very greatful when you consider me for a scholarship
    Kirill Neko 9/23/2015
    " you need an accounting degree to understand it" with "over 130 questions and averaging 30 minutes to complete" - maybe we'll stop whining?
    Henry mlay 9/23/2015
    I will be very greatfull when i get a scolaship to achieve my dreams
    Kalpana Biswa 9/22/2015
    I really like and I hippe I am succes to get schoolership in this year
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