As students and families around the country struggle with unforeseen costs, job loss, and other economic hardships as a result of the pandemic, it’s more important now than ever to ensure the student financial aid application process is as transparent and streamlined as possible. The cost of a postsecondary education is, for many, an insurmountable barrier to entry. As a result, each year droves of academically qualified students miss out on the federal funds they could receive to help them defray these costs.
The National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA) today released a series of 10 papers that provide policy recommendations to help streamline the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA. This series is the culmination of a year-long project in which NASFAA, with funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, enlisted and joined subject-matter experts in assessing the current validity of previous work done on FAFSA efficiency and exploring new simplification concepts. Authors included Seton Hall University Associate Professor Robert Kelchen, and staff from the Center for American Progress, The Century Foundation, the Center for Law and Social Policy, Iowa College Aid, the National College Attainment Network, the Urban Institute, and NASFAA, with the papers exploring myriad topics, including:
The struggle between FAFSA completion and verification.
Using means-tested benefits to reduce paperwork and maximize student aid.
Using federal tax returns in place of the FAFSA.
The impact of verification on the enrollment of low-income college students.
Free college programs and their impact on the FAFSA.
The implications of using a one-time FAFSA.
The effectiveness of the Federal Methodology in assessing a family’s ability to contribute.
After reviewing the ideas presented in each paper, NASFAA honed in on 13 recommendations it felt would resonate most with its membership to include in its executive summary as official FAFSA simplification recommendations for Congress. The final recommendations, among others, include expanding direct data sharing between the Internal Revenue Service and Department of Education, instituting a process where applicants would be steered down one of three paths based on screening questions, replacing the term "expected family contribution" with something that reflects an indexing of financial strength, and making the formula used to define verification selection criteria more transparent.
"While reauthorization of the Higher Education Act continues to move at a snail’s pace, it’s imperative that we keep forward momentum going and use this time to ideate, discuss, and coalesce around ideas that will have meaningful impact for needy students and families for years to come," said NASFAA President Justin Draeger. "Improving the FAFSA is a vital step to give college students the support they need to access postsecondary education. NASFAA looks forward to working with lawmakers to make these recommendations a reality."
Follow along with the conversation related to these papers on social media using #FixFAFSA and to request an interview with a NASFAA spokesperson on this paper series or NASFAA’s recommendations for streamlining the FAFSA, please email Director of Marketing and Communications Erin Powers at [email protected].
The National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA) is a nonprofit membership organization that represents more than 28,000 financial aid professionals at nearly 3,000 colleges, universities, and career schools across the country. NASFAA member institutions serve nine out of every 10 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.