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"Coupled with other reforms, this new form will provide families with real-time information on how much aid they can expect to receive... as opposed to how much they are expected to contribute under the current system. This will put students in the driver's seat, with more time to investigate their options."
U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings
Confusing, Complex, Inefficient
The Commission on the Future of Higher Education, launched by Secretary Spellings in 2006, found that the current federal financial aid system is not serving the needs of students and families.
- It is "confusing, complex, inefficient, duplicative, and frequently does not direct aid to students who truly need it," noted the Commission.
- The Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, has been characterized as more perplexing than the IRS 1040-tax form.
- The current form is six pages long with four additional pages of instructions. Applicants must answer more than 120 questions.
Streamlined and Simplified
The Commission recommended that the application process be "substantially streamlined," with the FAFSA replaced by a "much shorter and simpler application form." While recently enacted legislation would add even more questions to the FAFSA, Congress also asked the Department to identify ways to simplify the form.
The Department is outlining an example of how the FAFSA could be dramatically simplified for prospective and returning college students and their families. A new "FAFSA":
- Could be filed electronically (www.fafsa.ed.gov/);
- Would contain fewer than 30 individual questions arranged in eight easy-to-explain categories;
- Could be used with other reforms to provide real-time notification of aid amount and eligibility, so that families may begin planning for college early rather than having to wait until spring of the student's senior year;
- Could be coupled with other reforms to create a portable package of need-based aid that can be used at any institution of higher education; and
- Would reduce the burden on colleges and universities to verify information or rely on the collection of federal income tax returns.