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."

Class Size and the White House

A White House report on teacher cuts cites our work on class size and postsecondary outcomes. Neato!

"The most convincing scholarly research on class sizes, based on experimental evidence from the Tennessee Student Teacher Achievement Ratio (STAR) project, shows that smaller class sizes in the early primary years not only produce short term gains in student achievement (Dynarski et al., 2011) but also raise the likelihood that students will attend and graduate from college and study STEM subjects (Dynarski et al, 2011)."