Congressmen propose bill to make financial aid application easier

By Matthew Richardson

For college students looking to ease the financial burden on their families that an education can often present, filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is essential. Unfortunately, some consider the 100 plus question-long form an entirely different burden, the FAFSA taking anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour to complete. Fortunately, there is new legislation to remedy the matter.

Congressmen George Miller, D-Calif., and Rahm Emanuel, D-Ill., proposed the College Aid Made EZ Act. This act plans to both shorten the form, and expedite the process by which income is determined, relying on the Internal Revenue Service instead of family tax information.

The College Aid Made EZ Act would eliminate the need for students to submit theirs and their parent’s tax returns, because the new bill calls for the IRS to work in conjunction with the schools, supplying them with information about the family’s income.

“Part of what is driving this is that some people feel that maybe this process is too burdensome or maybe confusing to students and families,” said Daniel Mann, director of financial aid at the University, “so that students who qualify for financial aid might not apply because they find the application process to be a roadblock.”

Some students might worry that shortening the FAFSA would change the amount they receive in aid; however, the bill is more likely to affect the steps that a school takes to determine financial need, not the determination itself.

“Based upon my understanding, it would not change our real policy of how we award financial aid,” Mann said.

Mann also said that this act may change the way forms are processed by the Office of Financial Aid.

“Right now, when students fill out their FAFSA forms, a certain number of them are selected for verification,” Mann said. “We then have to go out and review additional stuff, such as tax returns. If that process is no longer needed, it will change our internal processing cycle and how those forms are processed.”

Though the idea of a shorter application is appealing for a number of reasons, the application reached its current length for a reason.

“The information that’s on the FAFSA right now has developed over a long number of years, and is there because most schools are interested in providing the financial aid to students in a fair and equitable manner,” Mann said.

Though the length of the form attempts to make the distribution of aid as fair as possible, it may prevent some students from considering the application,

“A lot of the simplification is trying to make sure that we don’t put barriers up for students to apply for financial aid to go to college,” Mann said. “However, as you start to get less information then your abilities to try and do (an analysis), and try to determine who is the neediest student, well, you don’t want to jeopardize that as well.”