Editorial — The “better” FAFSA

Is it simplified or more complicated than before?
TIMES ARE CHANGING — FAFSA announced changes to its filing system in February.
TIMES ARE CHANGING — FAFSA announced changes to its filing system in February.
Megan Poe

Don’t fix what isn’t broken, right? Well, FAFSA was always a little (a lot) broken, but the fixes don’t seem to fix what needed to be fixed. FAFSA has never been simple. Every year, parents say “Sit down, we need to fill this out.” And for two hours at the dining room table, there are passive-aggressive sighs, frustration, and repeated exclaims of “I don’t KNOW!” 

That’s if the student is lucky enough even to have a parent or guardian or conscious adult to help them with it at all.

FAFSA is attempting to “streamline” the process. According to the Federal Student Aid website, they are “removing questions about Selective Service registration and drug convictions.” However, they are adding demographic questions about “the student’s race, sex, and ethnicity,” which they claim will not affect the student. Could this be a sneaky way of data harvesting, even if they don’t use it discriminatorily?

Other changes include higher eligibility for the PELL grant by raising what is considered the poverty level, and now incarcerated students are allowed to receive it as well. This seems like a great change because it encourages class mobility.

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The fun ends there, though, because FAFSA is replacing the Expected Family Contribution with the “Student Aid Index,” which basically means they’ll calculate how much aid a student receives not by how many other students there are in that student’s family, but on an individual basis. The consent needed by a contributor can lead to plenty of issues with control on the contributor’s end. This could be further complicated now that it has to be done separately per student.

How much simplifying is this achieving? When the editorial board sat down this week to discuss our concerns, several members couldn’t fill out their FAFSA over winter break because the site was down for its changes, and said that they wouldn’t bother to fill it out at all if the changes were too drastic.

We aren’t able to tell if this is going to be a positive change right off the bat, but we are interested to see how this pans out since the forms are going to take so much longer to process. The ultimate goal FAFSA should have is to help students get the education they deserve, and give everyone an equal chance. It doesn’t have to be the fastest or easiest process, but any formulas they’re updating should be in the favor of the students.

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