A shortened version of the FAFSA reduced completion time and errors when compared with the official form, according to independent testing.
The Streamlined FAFSA — developed by the National College Access Network (NCAN) — includes as few as 20 to 25 questions, depending on the student. NCAN would like the government to take similar steps to shorten the financial aid application process.
“The current Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), while enabling millions of students to apply for college aid, also presents significant barriers for low-income and first-generation students seeking to attend college,” according to a report outlining the performance of NCAN’s sample form. “The application process is complicated, resulting in only a 44 percent completion rate for all high school seniors by graduation.”
The FAFSA — used to determine a student’s eligibility for federal grants and loans — currently includes more than 100 questions. NCAN’s version greatly reduces that number by using existing information from the Education Department and IRS to auto-complete some questions for applicants.
One especially helpful feature? NCAN’s version does not require families that receive means-tested benefits, such as food stamps, to provide additional financial information.
The change would make it easier for low-income students to access the money they need to attend college.
“If NCAN’s Streamlined FAFSA is implemented…Pell Grant expenditures would increase by approximately $1.4 billion, a 5.1 percent increase in the cost of the Pell Grant program,” the report states. “…The Streamlined FAFSA could ensure our neediest, more vulnerable students have access to the student aid they need for a postsecondary education.”
Admitted writer/editor Mary Stegmeir welcomes additional comments and story ideas at firstname.lastname@example.org.