[Federal Register: November 24, 1997 (Volume 62, Number 226)]
[Page 62568-62570]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Notice of Proposed Information Collection Requests

AGENCY: Department of Education.

[[Page 62569]]

ACTION: Proposed collection; comment request.


SUMMARY: The Secretary of Education requests comments on the Free 
Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) that the Secretary proposes 
to use for the 1999-2000 award year. The FAFSA is completed by students 
and their families and the information submitted on the form is used to 
determine the students' eligibility and financial need for the student 
financial assistance programs authorized under Title IV of the Higher 
Education Act of 1965, as amended, (Title IV, HEA Programs).

DATES: Interested persons are invited to submit comments on or before 
January 23, 1998.

ADDRESSES: Written comments and requests for copies of the proposed 
information collection requests should be addressed to Patrick J. 
Sherrill, Department of Education, 600 Independence Avenue, S.W., Room 
5624, Regional Office Building 3, Washington, DC 20202-4651. In 
addition, interested persons can access this document at the following 
http://www.ed.gov/offices/OPE/Professionals. Once at this website, the 
reader should go to the ``What's New'' area to locate the 1999-2000 

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Patrick J. Sherrill (202) 708-8196. 
Individuals who use a telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD) may 
call the Federal Information Relay Service (FIRS) at 1-800-877-8339 
between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m., Eastern time, Monday through Friday.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Section 483 of the Higher Education Act of 
1965, as amended (HEA), requires the Secretary, ``in cooperation with 
agencies and organizations involved in providing student financial 
assistance,'' to ``produce, distribute and process free of charge a 
common financial reporting form to be used to determine the need and 
eligibility of a student under'' the Title IV, HEA Programs. This form 
is the FAFSA. In addition, section 483 authorizes the Secretary to 
include on the FAFSA up to eight non-financial data items that would 
assist States in awarding State student financial assistance.
    Over the past several years, the Secretary, in cooperation with the 
above described agencies and organizations, has added questions to the 
form. Those questions were added to accommodate the needs of States 
that administer State student aid programs, and of institutions of 
higher education that administer the Title IV, HEA Programs. They were 
also added to facilitate eliminating or reducing the number of State 
and institutional forms that a student and his or her family must 
complete in order to receive student financial assistance.
    In a notice published in the Federal Register of March 18, 1997, 
the Secretary noted that the Department of Education was reengineering 
the FAFSA and looking anew at all the questions on the form. The 
Secretary asked for comment on questions that applicants were not 
required to answer in order to have their eligibility and need for 
Title IV, HEA Programs determined. The Secretary also requested comment 
with regard to which of the questions were integral to State student 
aid programs. The Secretary wishes to emphasize that he was not 
considering eliminating a question merely because he listed that 
question for comment.
    In addition to requesting comments in that notice regarding the 
1999-2000 FAFSA, in May and June of this year, the Secretary convened 
public meetings in New York, St. Louis, San Diego, and Washington, 
D.C., for the purpose of receiving comments on early drafts of the 
reengineered FAFSA. Further, at the invitation of the National 
Association of Student Financial Aid Officers (NASFAA), in July the 
Department conducted a forum on a later draft of the reengineered FAFSA 
at NASFAA's annual convention in Philadelphia.
    The FAFSA on which comments are requested reflects the many worthy 
and helpful comments the Department received during the Spring and 
Summer of this year. The adoption of many of these comments has made 
the FAFSA easier for applicants to understand and complete.
    With regard to the data elements to be included in the FAFSA, it 
was necessary to balance often competing considerations. Those 
considerations included whether requested data was necessary for 
Federal purposes, whether data produced accurate and verifiable 
information, whether data was needed by a State as part of its State 
student aid program, and whether the elimination of data on the FAFSA 
would lead to the reintroduction of State forms. As a result of 
evaluating those considerations, only five date elements were 
    The reengineered FAFSA differs from the current FAFSA as described 
below. References to the current FAFSA are to the 1997-98 FAFSA.
    * Five data elements were eliminated that provided
information that was of marginal value or could be easily obtained by 
another means. Those data elements are (1) applicant's permanent 
telephone number (question 10); (2) applicant's course of study 
(question 29); (3) date applicant expects to graduate (question 31); 
(4) whether applicant will attend the same college (question 36), and 
(5) applicant's release of information to state agencies (question 
    * To make finding the actual application easier and to
increase the probability that users will actually read instructions 
necessary to answer a particular question, the overall length of the 
document was reduced from 16 pages to eight pages. Instructions and 
background information were reduced from 12 pages to four pages, with 
one of these pages consisting of worksheets. To minimize the impact on 
processing, the application form itself remained four pages.
    * To orient users, the first page prominently describes what
kinds of aid an applicant may receive using the application and the 
telephone numbers that users may call for help.
    * To serve as a navigational aid, answer fields are
highlighted, one color for students and another color for parents. 
During usability testing, users were especially appreciative of this 
    * To reduce confusion, the use of shortcut devices was
eliminated. For example, users are not asked to navigate coordinates 
(columns and rows).
    * With regard to the ``simplified needs test,'' it was
discovered through iterative design and usability testing that it was 
simpler and less burdensome to have applicants answer questions 
regarding their assets than it was for them to figure out whether they 
needed to answer those questions. Also, applicants who did not have to 
answer asset questions for Federal purposes may have to answer those 
questions for State purposes. As a result, all applicants will be 
required to answer asset questions. For the same reasons, the form 
could not be successfully designed to facilitate the ``zero EFC'' 
    * Worksheets were not given a name. Early usability testing
showed that users frequently saw the name of a worksheet, assumed it 
did not apply to them, and ignored it. In later testing, all users 
looked at the worksheets. This later success was attributed to the fact 
that the worksheets are not named, the document is now much shorter, 
and the worksheets are easier to find.
    * Users are now advised to complete their tax forms before
filling out the FAFSA. Questions relating to filing estimated tax forms 
were eliminated (questions 56 C and D and 65 C and D).

[[Page 62570]]

As a result, more accurate income information should be reported.
    * The wording of several questions was simplified and
clarified. Instead of asking users for their ``title'', the form 
explains that males must be registered with the Selective Service and 
then asks if the users are male and want to be registered.
    * The FAFSA no longer asks students whether they plan to
attend various semesters on a \3/4\ time basis. The term ``attending'' 
was substituted for ``enrolled'' because students had a tendency to 
fill in only the Fall term, which is the term in which they generally 
would enroll.
    * The FAFSA now asks for the name and address of the
institution before it asks for the Title IV code. The FAFSA also tells 
the applicant where to find the Title IV code.
    The Secretary is publishing this request for comment under the 
provisions of the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995, 44 U.S.C. 3501 et 
seq. Under that Act, ED must obtain the review and approval of the 
Office of Management and Budget (OMB) before it may use a form to 
collect information. However, under the procedure for obtaining 
approval from OMB, ED must first obtain public comment on the proposed 
form, and to obtain that comment, ED must publish this notice in the 
Federal Register.
    To accommodate the requirements of the Paperwork Reduction Act, the 
Secretary is interested in receiving comments with regard to the 
following matters: (1) Is this collection necessary to the proper 
functions of the Department, (2) will this information be processed and 
used in a timely manner, (3) is the estimate of burden accurate, (4) 
how might the Department enhance the quality, utility, and clarity of 
the information to be collected, and (5) how might the Department 
minimize the burden of this collection on the respondents, including 
through the use of information technology.

    Dated: November 19, 1997.
Gloria Parker,
Deputy Chief Information Officer, Office of the Chief Information 

Office of Postsecondary Education

    Type of Review: Revision.
    Title: Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
    Frequency: Annually.
    Affected Public: Individuals and families.
    Annual Reporting and Recordkeeping Hour Burden:

    Responses: 9,568,017
    Burden Hours: 6,274,770

    Abstract: The FAFSA collects identifying and financial information 
about a student and his or her family if the student applies for Title 
IV, Higher Education Act (HEA) Program funds. This information is used 
to calculate the student's expected family contribution, which is used 
to determine a student's financial need. The information is also used 
to determine the student's eligibility for grants and loans under the 
Title IV, HEA Programs. It is further used for determining a student's 
eligibility and need for State and institutional financial aid 
[FR Doc. 97-30810 Filed 11-21-97; 8:45 am]