FAFSA, Money

Introducing the Streamlined FAFSA

0 Comments 16 January 2017

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Multiple organizations understand that the FAFSA application process is complicated and may present barriers to college access for many students. For this reason, the National College Access Network (NCAN) has created the Streamlined FAFSA. The FAFSA is a free a universal form for students to fill out in order to apply for financial aid from the U.S. Department of Education. NCAN’s model eliminates unnecessary and redundant questions in order to maintain FAFSA’s original purpose, which is to serve as the premier and free form to apply for financial aid.

Applying for the FAFSA is a complicated process, with only about 44 percent of students completing the form. This means about $24 billion goes unclaimed in federal aid, which includes $2.7 billion in Pell Grants. NCAN recognizes that there are several barriers for students completing the FAFSA. Chief among them is a lack of understanding the application process, overly complex questions and the length of the FAFSA. These issues cause barriers for many applicants, especially first-generation students.

The Streamlined FAFSA eliminates these issues by providing a shortened series of eligibility and demographic questions for applicants. An updated Federal Student Aid ID (FSA ID) and expanded access to the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (IRS DRT) allows many identifying and financial questions to be automatically filled in, which saves the applicant time and reduces errors.

The Streamlined FAFSA reduces the number of questions by guiding students down one of three paths. Pathway one has as few as 20 questions for applicants from families who receive benefits from eligible federal means-tested programs. This means that these individuals automatically can skip all financial questions and receive the maximum Pell Grant award.

Pathway two has no more than 23 questions for applicants who do not participate in means-tested benefit programs and do not file a schedule with their taxes. Pathway three includes 25 questions for students who file tax schedules with their taxes.

NCAN’s Streamlined FAFSA is outperforming the current FAFSA. Independent testing of the NCAN model shows a 56 percent lower error rate, a 39 percent improvement in completion times and 50 percent fewer questions to answer.

Transparency has been increased and uncertainty is reduced in the FAFSA filing process because of the streamlined FAFSA. This model could increase Pell Grant expenditures by nearly 5.1 percent and increase FAFSA completion by 7.4 percent.

With 85 percent of four-year college students receiving financial aid, a simplified FAFSA application process is vital. The streamlined FAFSA could ensure that needy students have the access to financial aid.

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