Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Student Aid Simplification: An Update

I have a new paper (with UM doctoral student Mark Wiederspan) on advances, and lack thereof, in simplifying the federal student aid system. Just published in the March 2012 issue of the National Tax Journal:
"There have been some successes. The user experience for the online FAFSA has been improved, with fewer repetitive questions and better skip logic. ... In a major break through a longstanding administrative logjam, some applicants can now transfer their IRS tax data directly into their FAFSA from the IRS servers... On the downside, the basic structure of the aid application process is unchanged. Applicants are still faced with a blizzard of paperwork. The FAFSA is just about as long and complicated as it was in 2006. For every two questions trimmed from the FAFSA, one more question has been added. As a result the FAFSA has shrunk only slightly (from 127 to 116 questions), and is still longer than the tax forms completed by most taxpayers...The IRS-FAFSA link, which has great potential to simplify the aid process, is hobbled by so many restrictions on its use that only 24 percent of applicants actually use it."