Sophie Quinn highlights some attempts to streamline the Federal Application for Federal Student Aid, (FAFSA), which is used to determine students’ eligibility for student loans. Writing for the Atlantic Online, Quinn says:
“These days, 85 percent of undergraduates at US four-year colleges and universities use financial aid to help cover the cost of higher education. The Education Department uses the FAFSA to calculate how much a student’s family can pay for college, and thus the student’s eligibility for the vast majority of aid: federal grants, loans, and work-study money, as well as some state awards and institutional scholarships.”
The Department of Education has revamped the online form so as to resemble tax-preparation software, pulling financial information directly from the IRS. They have also removed several questions from the application.
But despite these improvements, many new students feel intimidated by the process of applying for financial aid. In response, educators and nonprofit organizations across the country are hosting free events where expert counselors guide students through the application.
These changes are much needed. But there’s one issue that I haven’t seen addressed, which makes financial aid especially complicated. And that’s the problem of parental support. Right now, students as old as 24 have to provide their parents’ tax return information on the FAFSA. There are some exceptions for young people who are homeless, or who are already financially independent. But that can be hard to prove through a government website.
When you’re the first person in your family to attend college, your parents may not appreciate the urgency of filling out the FAFSA. And if your parents haven’t filed their taxes on time, or if they’re unwilling to share that information, you could find that the FAFSA is very difficult to complete.
What do you think? Should the Department of Education lower the age of dependency to 21 years, or even younger?