Early FAFSA Opens Door to Further Simplification
WASHINGTON, DC – This fall, college students across the country will have access to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, months earlier than in previous years, arming them with financial aid information that can help students and families make better informed decisions about their college choices.
The use of prior-prior year income data, which President Barack Obama made possible through executive action last fall, lays the foundation for the earlier release date of the FAFSA, and opens the door for further simplification efforts within federal financial aid.
Lawmakers and higher education thought leaders, including NASFAA, have long called for efforts to streamline the federal student aid process. NASFAA suggested in its FAFSA Working Group Report creating a FAFSA application that directs students down one of three pathways — rather than taking a “one-size-fits-all” approach — depending on factors such as their family income, dependency status, tax information, and whether the applicant has been a recipient of public means-tested benefits. This proposal would be possible with the use of prior-prior year income data, and an increased use of the IRS Data Retrieval Tool.
“NASFAA has long been interested in ways to make the FAFSA more efficient and simple for students and families — in particular our neediest families should not have to prove time and time again that they are poor,” says NASFAA President Justin Draeger. “The use of prior-prior year income data on the FAFSA is an important first step in the simplification process, and can be a launching off to further simplify and streamline the application process.”
Although the overall political climate in Washington is polarized, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have shown both an interest in and support for simplifying the federal student aid application process. Now is the time to make changes to help expand access for students and families.
The National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA) is a nonprofit membership organization that represents more than 20,000 financial aid professionals at nearly 3,000 colleges, universities, and career schools across the country. NASFAA member institutions serve nine out of every ten undergraduates in the United States. Based in Washington, DC, NASFAA is the only national association with a primary focus on student aid legislation, regulatory analysis, and training for financial aid administrators. For more information, visit www.nasfaa.org.