Congress should simplify FASFA forms

The 100-plus page financial aid applications unduly burden students.

The difficulty of the paperwork that financial aid applications require has reached an unnecessary high. It is disheartening that the current Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form poses a major barrier to many potential applicants who need financial aid the most. With more than 100 questions, the current form âÄîwhich, ironically enough, was created in the early 1990s in an effort to streamline the financial aid process âÄî seems excessive and inefficiently constructed. Its length and complexity are so daunting that many have been driven to use paid professionals just to fill out the form. Congress and President Barack Obama have complained about FAFSAâÄôs structure, which is especially troubling, given that despite its prodigious size, it still fails to take into account assets such as some family homes and even businesses. Therefore, it succeeds in inconveniencing students but not in providing the information that schools actually need to make proper determinations in the allocation of their financial aid resources. The length and complexity of the FAFSA form may also have the unfortunate consequence of preventing some people in need from applying for or receiving financial aid. It is especially unsettling that the people hurt most by such a complex form are very likely those who come from families of lower educational status and who most need financial assistance to attend college. The Department of Education should try to shorten and simplify the form in any way possible, though we hope that potential streamlining does not engender a wave of supplemental questionnaires required by individual schools. Paying for college is already difficult enough. The last thing we need is for the paperwork to be an obstacle, too. This editorial, accessed via UWire, was originally published in the Harvard Crimson at Harvard University. Please send comments to [email protected]