Legislation Could Help Simplify Applying for Financial Aid


One of the biggest barriers high-achieving, low-income students face when applying for financial aid is the mountain of paper work necessary to apply. The central component of that process is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which is required for federal, state, or institutional aid.

However, students aren’t always aware of when and how to file a FAFSA application, and completing the form itself can take an hour or more. They can become very frustrated with the process and some even just give up.

Enter two lawmakers in Washington who want to change that.

A new bill introduced in Congress, the Financial Aid Simplification and Transparency (FAST Act), could help by drastically streamlining the FAFSA application. Among other measures to streamline the entire process, the legislation calls for an application that would consist of just two questions.

Undoubtedly, many more students across the country would apply for financial aid, and finding college affordable may help them make better, more informed decisions about their future. Moreover, because high-achieving, low-income students often exist in isolation, they are likely to be among those who stand to benefit most.

And for those who are already on the ball with respect to financial aid, relieving their guidance counselors of needless paperwork would provide much more time for them to work together to apply for additional scholarships and key college transition activities. They also will be able to know the aid available them sooner, which will help them determine the colleges that might be right for them before they actually apply.

The legislation would even make things easier after graduation by restructuring loan repayment plans.

If the FAST Act passes into law, it won’t be a cure all, but it will start new conversations regardless, including the importance of college access and affordability and closing the excellence gap that high achieving, low-income students face. That is an achievement in itself.