Obama introduces new, simpler FAFSA procedures

Written By Emily Bennett

Raise your hand if you’ve been personally victimized by FAFSA.

That’s what I thought.

College costs money and a lot of it. Just thinking about somehow acquiring enough money to pay for college is a little soul-crushing; actually finding a realistic way to pay for your post-high school education is flat-out daunting. Trying to figure out your future is stressful enough – and the financial aid process definitely doesn’t make it any less taxing. According to the Washington Post, the process behind getting any amount of money from the government to pay for college is so complicated that a lot of students who qualify for billions of dollars in Pell Grants never apply. Two million students, in fact. That’s a lot of students.

It’s no wonder so much money goes unclaimed. Applying for FAFSA, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, is a complicated and time consuming endeavor. Many high schools host after- school workshops to assist families in filling out the FAFSA. The process normally takes about an hour and provides students with an estimate as to how much money the government might give them to assist in paying for college. Students are also forced to wait to complete the form until their family’s tax data arrives. Although it’s hard to pinpoint what the worst part of FAFSA exactly is, it’s not impossible. The real kicker is that the FAFSA module has never been available before January, long after most prospective college students have applied to various colleges and more than likely picked their number one choice. Instead of FAFSA assisting students in the college selection process, it simply served as an afterthought once they had already made their decision. Until now, that is.

Thanks, Obama (no, seriously). Thanks to the President of the United States and officials in Washington, FAFSA just got a whole lot easier. Starting in 2016, FAFSA will be available for students three months earlier. Students will also be permitted to electronically retrieve and use tax information from two years earlier, instead of waiting those seemingly endless months until tax season.

College Scorecard, an interactive website created by the U.S. Department of Education, has also been fashioned in an attempt to assist you in all of your college needs. The website, which can be accessed by going to collegescorecard.ed.gov, has search bars dedicated to finding colleges by programs, degrees, location and size; and also has information located near the bottom concerning monetary assistance, featuring a fancy financial aid calculator.

According to President Obama, this is all part of a bigger initiative to help the American masses become more informed about where they can afford to send their kids to school.

This combination is unstoppable! New and improved FAFSA and a useful website? That means college is basically free now, right?

Not exactly. We wish it was that easy. Sure, you can access FAFSA easier, but finishing the form at an earlier date doesn’t mean that you’ll be supplied with an adequate amount of money to pay for college. According to the Institute for College Access and Success, the average student loan debt crept up to $30,000 last year. Some students think FAFSA in general is bogus.

Although the White House’s move to simplify this process is a step in the right direction, why is this just now a priority? The price of college is completely nonsensical. Unfortunately, at this point, I think Americans have learned to accept that.

Now they can accept that sad truth three months sooner – and before tax season, of course.