We've said it before, but it bears repeating: filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid form, or the FAFSA, can be a pain in the butt. But at this point, there's no way around it. If you're hoping to get some federal grants or financial aid to help offset the costs of college, then you're going to have to fill it out.
As my colleague Dustin Dwyer noted in a story he did earlier this year, even the U.S. Department of Education acknowledges there are serious problems with our country's financial aid system.
The department issued a lengthy report in 2006 about the future of higher education. One of the main takeaways is that our current system for getting financial aid is "confusing, complex, inefficient, duplicative, and frequently does not direct aid to students who truly need it."
But don't despair!
University of Michigan professor of economics Susan Dynarski wrote yesterday in the New York Times that the confusing, complex and inefficient FAFSA form may soon be a thing of the past:
...There is hope on the horizon. In a rare case of cross-aisle cooperation, congressional Democrats and Republicans are working on legislation that could simplify and speed the aid process. One bill, sponsored in the Senate by Lamar Alexander, Republican of Tennessee, and Michael Bennet, Democrat of Colorado, would cut the lengthy federal aid application, now longer than the typical 1040 Internal Revenue Service form, to just two questions.
Wow, just think how much easier it would be to apply for financial aid if all you have to do is answer TWO QUESTIONS.
Dynarski thinks that even having to answer two questions poses a barrier to some families. So she recommends eliminating the FAFSA all together.
"A large body of evidence from economics and psychology shows that even minor bureaucratic hurdles can keep people from making smart investments in their futures," Dynarksi writes.
Getting rid of the FAFSA entirely, she adds, would reduce the gaps in college attendance that persist between rich and poor students. (You can read more about her idea here.)
But for now, the FAFSA is still the same old "confusing, complex, inefficient, duplicative" form that it's always been. To help you fill it out, we've got an Infowire post chalk full of FAFSA tips and expert advice. Check it out.