Obama Proposes Elimination Of 27 FAFSA Questions

By Karen McCarthy, Policy and Federal Relations Staff

A little-noticed proposal from President Obama, included in the supporting materials for last week’s State of the Union address, but not mentioned in the speech itself, would eliminate 27 questions on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

With the goal of simplifying the FAFSA so more students will apply, the proposal calls for the elimination of 27 of the “most burdensome and difficult-to-verify” questions, including “questions about assets that penalize savings and untaxed veterans benefits, child support, and clergy pay.” Since most of the FAFSA questions that relate to these income sources are derived directly from Federal Methodology, which is part of the Higher Education Act, it is unclear how they could be eliminated from the FAFSA without Congressional action. Unknown at this time is which specific questions are being targeted for elimination, beyond the broad description offered above.

NASFAA is seeking clarification from the Obama administration and will keep our members informed via Today’s News.


Publication Date: 1/27/2015

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Lynn S | 1/28/2015 5:31:02 PM

I'm for anything that would take parents *completely out* of the application process. Too many parents are completing the online FAFSA, MPN's, and entrance/exit counseling sessions on behalf of their children, fail to educate their children on money basics, and then are nowhere to be found when the student loan payments become due. Or worse, the parents try to manage the loan repayment process too, and end up defaulting on their children's loans. There's a certain road that is paved with good intentions.....
College is a time for cutting the apron strings, not tightening them. If a high school student knows they'll need to borrow $40 from mom and dad for dinner and a movie with their friends, or $500 for prom-related expenses, then they are plenty capable of learning how to budget their other expenses. But instead of building on those experiences, the FAFSA reinforces the myth that only parents are intellectually capable enough to navigate financial matters. Is it any surprise, then, that our young people avoid the FA office and aren't interested in financial literacy?

Christopher R | 1/28/2015 2:19:24 PM

Further, Selective Service is not properly announced to males. It is an outdated policy. Also, why are drug convictions held against students but not violent crimes?

David M | 1/28/2015 11:1:58 AM

I say eliminate the selective service requirement instead - a stale, outdated requirement that is unevenly managed, sexist, and unnecessarily burdensome.

Robert P | 1/27/2015 3:58:33 PM

Alexander proposes two questions - Income and household size. Obama proposes eliminating 27 questions. Hopefully, we will have a constructive conversation and meet somewhere in the middle with an improved form for students and parents.

Linnea T | 1/27/2015 11:39:14 AM

I echo Linda's comment. There are many resources for students/families to get assistance in completing the FAFSA if they find it too difficult. The FAFSA application itself has pop-up tips and directions for each question the student is required to answer, as well as a link to a FAFSA helpline. I work in Washington State and we organize state-wide FAFSA nights that are available free of charge and located in numerous locations on different dates. Additionally, I don't know a single institution of higher education that doesn't assist an inquiring student with completing their application. I view this on the same level with completing the federal tax return; if you have to do them and need help, there are plenty of resources (both free and paid) available to assist a taxpayer. No one seems to be gripping about or defending the taxpayers that aren't taking advantage of the opportunities to claim additional deductions or refunds.

David S | 1/27/2015 10:44:15 AM

Feudi, where does it say that he plans to do this unilaterally? Presidents can and do propose and encourage legislative priorities. That said, ED does have some input as to, for instance, what constitutes untaxed income.

The truth is that 100+ questions is absurd; the application process needs to be driven by what works for applicants, not for economic theorists and need analysis purists. I myself might even fall into that latter category, but no matter how much we have ever added or subtracted from the data collection and the formula, no matter what alternative formulae have existed, I don't think anyone can say we've ever had a perfect way of measuring need. We've long acknowledged that it's a rationing device. I think Senator Alexander's postcard is oversimplifying, but if aid professionals are going to keep arguing against every simplification proposal and detail in the name of a perfect need analysis formula, we're going to be seen as part of the problem. It's time we become part of the solution again.

Linda W | 1/27/2015 10:30:41 AM

In addition to what was already mentioned, this assumes students are having problems completing the FAFSA. We outreach like crazy and assist with completion. It is has been demonstrated time and time again, students know how to complete the FAFSA and are willing to help their parents should they stumble. If the prez wants to eliminate something then take away the need to register for Selective Service or allow the ATB again.

Gwen H | 1/27/2015 9:47:58 AM

The more questions we eliminate, the less accurate the end result. Whether you receive money for working or not, income is income. It doesn't seem fair to penalize families that work for their income. I don't think there should be skip logic for income purposes. All income should be reported accurately and then let the formula determine the eligibility.

Theodore M | 1/27/2015 9:14:33 AM

Well the ones mentioned will move money from poor students to the ones who have more. That is the big problem with simplification. I think there is middle ground where the sequencing of questions online can distinguish those for whom it is only confusing from those who have that income and know exactly what it means by using skip logic.

For instance we ask what is your parents marital status. I think it would be better to be more explicit with more explanation to the options. If we said which best represents your legal parents marital status. Married to each other, Divorced or separated from each other, never married. The logic then takes the first one to answer questions, but the second two go on to ask, which parent did you live with the most in the last 12 months. and so on.

Beverly C | 1/27/2015 9:13:21 AM

I'd like to know exactly the "most burdensome and difficult-to-verify" questions are. Most people know when they get untaxed money and when they pay or receive child support. People don't and don't want to read the questions. How do you solve that one?

Feudi P | 1/27/2015 8:49:02 AM

Why in the world would a little thing like the Higher Education Act of 1965 preclude Dear Leader from unilaterally eliminating 27 FAFSA questions?

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