President Barack Obama took executive action last month to allow the use of prior-prior year (PPY) income information on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). In doing so he sent a message to families, students, and higher education advocates across the nation: streamlining the FAFSA – and allowing for easier, earlier application for financial aid – is key to getting more low-income students to and through college. So what’s the next step in our national commitment to simplify the financial aid process?
The National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA) has long been interested in ways to make the the overall application experience, including the FAFSA, simpler and more efficient for students and families.
In the summer of 2014, NASFAA convened a FAFSA Working Group (FWG) to develop a model that would simplify the application process while still ensuring program integrity and accurate targeting of federal funds. A move to PPY was one of the key recommendations made in the FWG’s July 2015 final report.
The FWG also recommended that the FAFSA be pared down to require basic personal identifiers and demographic information, and questions necessary to determine the applicant’s dependency status. Applicants would then be steered down one of three paths based on their receipt of certain federal means-tested benefits and their tax filing status. The process would weed out questions about certain financial resources for those applicants who are highly unlikely to have those resources so that students with the highest need would be presented with the fewest questions.
This recommendation is predicated on the use of PPY and an expansion of the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT) --which allows data to be quickly and easily autofilled on the FAFSA online using IRS information.
“Students from low-income backgrounds already have enough barriers to enrolling in college. We must take steps to ensure that the FAFSA is not yet another obstacle,” said NASFAA President Justin Draeger. “By eliminating irrelevant and unnecessary questions and fully utilizing existing data and technology, we can make the process much easier for our neediest students and more efficient for all student aid applicants.”
“The president’s move to implement PPY has cleared the path to implement these next-step simplification measures,” added Draeger. “NASFAA is excited to work with policymakers to keep the momentum going to further streamline the aid application process for families and more accurately target federal funds to the students who need them most.”
To request an interview with a NASFAA spokesperson, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (202) 785-0453.
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, D.C., 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.
Publication Date: 10/27/2015