Education and financial experts are rethinking the structure of today’s federal student aid system.
The recent report, “Fulfilling the Commitment: Recommendations for Reforming Federal Student Aid,” questions the functionality and relevance of the current college financial aid model.
The report was issued by the Rethinking Student Aid study group, an independent team of policy experts, researchers and higher education professionals.
Sandy Baum, an economics professor at Skidmore College and senior policy analyst for College Board, and Michael McPherson, president of the Spencer Foundation, are proponents for a fundamental restructuring of the nation’s poor federal student aid system.
In a press release by College Board, Baum said “more tinkering with a system built piecemeal in the last century is no longer an option.”
“The report’s package of proposals is poised to capitalize on historic opportunities on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue and in state capitals across the nation to enact transformative financial aid reform,” she said.
One of the major changes the package proposed is the elimination of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, which students must complete annually to remain eligible for financial aid. The study group suggested that financial data be retrieved from the Internal Revenue Service.
The group wants to prevent parents and students from filing paperwork. To make the financial aid application process simpler on applicants, a form would be submitted to the IRS authorizing the release of tax information.
“The process is more difficult than it needs to be. It took me a few hours to complete [FAFSA],” said freshman anthropology major Eric Murdy. “I would definitely like less forms to fill out and I like the idea of taking into account inflation.”
The group does not support the current financial aid process because it considers the procedure to be complex and likely deters financial aid-eligible students from applying to college or for financial aid. By releasing the report, members from Rethinking Student Aid said their proposed plan will lessen the burden on applicants.
“Too many low- and middle-income students with high potential face barriers to earning a college degree,” McPherson said in a press release by College Board. “These barriers are born of inertia in political will and a piecemeal, rickety financial aid system that no longer serves student or workforce needs.”
McPherson supports a more predictable, simpler and better targeted aid system that will help the United States regain the top position in the world for degree attainment.
Another change the group suggests is using an average from three years of income, which would be adjusted for inflation, instead of evaluating the income received in the most recent year.
As stated in the report, this change will provide a more reliable picture of the students’ and parents’ financial circumstances.
The report also suggests standardizing the way Federal Pell Grants are calculated. The group said the grants should be based on income and family size alone so that families can refer to a chart before applying for financial aid to get an idea of how much aid to expect before filling out the FAFSA.
The report reinforces the group’s main goal, which is to make the student financial aid process easier for students concerned about receiving funding for college. The project wants to provide a less complicated application process that encourages more students to obtain aid and, if eligible, allow them continue college to earn their degrees.
Though some students agree with the report, not all will be enrolled in higher education institutions
if the changes occur.
Senior film and media arts major Daniel Kremer welcomes the change but is graduating soon.
“I certainly don’t look forward to doing [the FAFSA]. It’s just the same lengthy process every year,” he said. “I probably won’t be around to see the changes.”
Courtney Makupson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.