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FAFSA changes coming

BY KELLIE PETERSEN | JANUARY 19, 2010 7:30 AM

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Students dreading the burden of a complicated financial-aid application process can look forward to several anticipated changes.

The Department of Education is planning to tweak the Free Application for Federal Student Aid form in an attempt to make it easier and more user-friendly.

Though some officials thought the changes might take place this year, they don’t anticipate most to occur until the 2011-12 academic year. Because the application is filled out for the following academic year, students and parents will notice some differences next year.

During the summer, the Department of Education announced a revamped form was on the way, but this year’s paperwork looked basically the same. Though the department doesn’t have a deadline, officials expect a new form next year.

According to Cathy Wilcox, a senior associate director for the UI Office of Student Financial Aid, possible changes include simplifying income questions to include only earnings from work and not assets. Fewer questions and web screens may be a part of the revamped application. In addition to these variations, the Education Department may work with the IRS to verify income.

Greg Cendana, the president of the United States Student Association — a national organization devoted to student issues — said he welcomes the changes.

“[We have] been working and advocating for the simplifying of the [application] for years, so this is a victory for students,” he said.

Cendana not only appreciates the tweaks to the financial-aid form in general but also the effect they will have on first-generation students.

“The [application] used to be a barrier to students every year,” he said. “So with the changes we believe that students, especially first-generation students, will be more confident and excited about applying for federal financial aid.”

UI students are familiar with the daunting process.

Though UI senior Gena Shapiro said filling out the application got easier over the years because the program saves certain information, she recalled difficulties with the form initially and said changes to make it easier would be beneficial.

“It’s kind of scary the first time because you don’t know what to do,” she said.

Others noted the confusion the form creates in its present state.

Sophomore Greg Buck suggested schools should better instruct students on how to complete the application.

“They’re just kind of like ‘Yeah, this is the form you need to fill out if you want aid,’ ” he said.

Fellow sophomore Corey Buit agreed about the confusion the form can create.

“I’ve seen it,” he said. “It’s more confusing and complicated than I want to deal with.”

Jan Knowles, Buit’s mother, completed the form for the spring semester and said she realized the benefits new paperwork will create.

“The easier it is, the more apt I am to fill it out,” she said.


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