Plans to simplify student aid paperwork


Remember filing out your FAFSA form for federal aid in college?

When I completed mine for the first time, it was complex and time consuming. Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, asks more than 153 questions depending on criteria for first-time applicants.

This high level of intimidation leaves many students feeling overwhelmed. Some choose to hire a private financial aid consultant to complete their FAFSA for a fee, others seek help from their college's financial aid office, but many students either choose to take out private loans when they are actually eligible for financial aid.

Then there's always the unfortunate event when a student is immersed with fear about financing their college education, and just decide not to bother.

In an effort to ease the FAFSA process, Education Secretary Arne Duncan has announced some plans to tackle this issue. Under this proposed plan, students will be able to skip irrelevant questions, and some families can use tax related information that was already given to the IRS.

This plan is the latest attempt to encourage more low- to middle-income students to apply for federal aid. I think that the less complex the FAFSA form is the better.

However, the current system provides good support. The online application guides students through every step and financial aid counselors offer some useful advice.

I can understand why some families may feel intimidated by going through a process in hopes of receiving aid in the end. I would argue that during bad economic times, the uncertainty of receiving enough federal aid will influence families to gather up all of their documents and apply.