The FAFSA is Not Too Complicated Part 2 | Some Ideas to Make the FAFSA More Fair

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Part Two: Where the FAFSA requirements Improvement

CoCo 130820 0370 Yesterday I recommended that the FAFSA has too few queries and does not collect enough information to allow colleges to allocate federal financial aid funds to the students who the majority of need them.   Many schools use the College Scholarship Service (CSS) Profile application to collect more information compared to FAFSA collects, and these colleges took some heat recently when experts suggested this form is a barrier to get into to higher education for low revenue students. I’d love the FAFSA to ask enough questions that universities would feel it was completely adequate for allocation of their own funds. Let us look at a couple of deficiencies in the FAFSA that lead colleges to use a separate application for institutional funds.

The FAFSA only collects information about the student’s custodial parent(s) or stepparent. Many students who have parents who divorced or by no means married each other get federal plus state financial aid based on only one of the parents’ incomes, even if both mom and dad are living (and even if both mom and dad are actively involved in their lives). Students in households headed by married parents (or a parent who has married the student’s stepparent) obtain federal and state financial aid based on the income of two adults.

This is fundamentally unfair. Every person in a divorce remains a mother or father to their children, and should remain accountable for paying for the children’s education prior to the taxpayers step in. The Department of Education should require students to provide income and resource information from both of their natural or adoptive parents, while allowing colleges to waive this requirement if the student can demonstrate that their non-custodial parent has been abusive, or it is otherwise unreasonable to hold the student to this expectation.

The FAFSA does not ask the pupil or his family to statement the value of the home they live in. A fair financial aid policy would meet what is sometimes the “roommate test. ”   This basically means that if two students (roommates) knew enough about the other’s finances, they would understand why one received more financial aid than the other.  

Consider the following hypothetical roommate test. Two students originate from identical backgrounds, with one exception: one lives in a home his family members owns, which has $100, 000 in home equity; the second lives in a rented home, but the family has $100, 000 in cash to use as a down-payment on a home after the student goes away to college. These students look financially similar to me, however FAFSAs would suggest that the student in whose parents have not yet bought a house are financially stronger than the pupil whose parents own a home.   This is simply not fair.

I don’t want my taxpayer supplied funds going to children with 2 living parents if their eligibility for these funds was based on the ability associated with only one of these parents to pay for university. I don’t want my taxpayer supplied funds to be more available to students who live in homes owned by their parents, versus students who live in rented homes. Although I agree with some critics that the College Scholarship Service (CSS) Profile application is usually overly complex, I am glad that approximately 300 colleges use it to collect more information than the FAFSA does, plus gather information to lessen these and other unfair aspects of the federal financial aid system. I encourage the Department of Education to ignore those who claim the FAFSA is too difficult, and instead add questions towards the form so that colleges can better understand a family’s true capability to pay. This way, my taxpayer dollars—and yours as well—will help those who truly need those funds to attend college.

Robert Weinerman is a member of College Coach’s team associated with college finance professionals . Before joining College Trainer, Robert worked as a Senior Educational funding Officer at MIT and Babson College.

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