The New York Times printed an article this morning talking about how the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is too cumbersome for most families to fill out. They cited how some families are even turning to paid consultants to complete the form, paying somewhere between $80 and $100 per application (which defeats the whole purpose of a free application).
Clearly, if you’ve read this blog over the years, you know that I have a long and storied history with student loans. Over the course of my 7 years as an undergraduate and graduate student I filled out a bunch of these things; my Mother and I filled out my first few FAFSA forms and I filled out the last few. What I remember about filling out the forms was not that it was tedious (filling out any government form is tedious), but rather that the results reports were not good enough.
In other words, you’d put together this FAFSA and then get a report back (mine was from my undergraduate institute) telling you which aid you qualified for based on your responses. The report didn’t speak to potential repayment scenarios or to existing debts under each program; both pieces of information could really help students and their families make better decisions. I’m not sure why this information isn’t included in the report as both the federal government and the college have the information at their fingertips.
The FAFSA should be changed, but this change should be a part of changing the entire student loan process.