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TAX DATA SIMPLIFIED, BUT THE FAFSA LIVES ON

Simplify the application process for financial aid

"Will streamline the financial aid process by eliminating the current federal financial aid application and enabling families to apply simply by checking a box on their tax form, authorizing their tax information to be used, and eliminating the need for a separate application."

Sources: Obama education plan

Subjects: Education, Government Efficiency

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THE OBAMETER: COMPROMISE

Anyone who has applied for college financial aid knows the daunting task of filling out the FAFSA, officially known as the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.

As a candidate, Barack Obama promised to simplify this process by allowing families to apply "simply by checking a box on their tax form."

Our last update found that the number of questions on the form were reduced to make it simpler, so let's see if Obama has made progress since then.

In the past, students (or more likely, their parents) had to manually enter complicated financial information. In February, 2012, the IRS unveiled an option that partially

allows parents and students to auto-fill the tax portion of the FAFSA the form directly from their previous year"s tax returns.

The only catch is that only 80% of users are eligible for this feature because you need the following:

- A valid SSN

- A filed tax return for the previous year

- An unchanged marital status as of December 31 of the prior year

Aside from that setback, the tool eliminates some of the guesswork that inevitably comes with such a long and complicated form.

We interviewed officials of the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators and found that there has been some progress in making the online application simpler as a result of increased "skip logic" which allows students to skip questions based on their previous answers.

So there's been substantial progress: a shorter form and single click option that transfers tax data directly from the IRS website to the FAFSA. But, Obama"s promise to eliminate the FAFSA completely hasn't been fulfilled.

We move this promise from In the Works to Compromise.

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Sources:

The White House, Paper Cuts,Jun. 30, 2012

Student Loan Network, IRS Data Retrieval Tool for FAFSA, Nov. 29, 2011

Student Loan Network, Autofill your FAFSA with IRS Data Retrieval,Feb. 1, 2012

CBS, Completing the FAFSA form just got a lot easier , Jan. 30, 2012

Interview with Haley Chitty, director of communications, Karen McCarthy, policy analyst and Megan McClean, director of policy and federal relations, National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators, Nov. 5, 2012

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