Thursday, March 22, 2007


By Bryan O’Keefe

While CCAP’s fearless leader is off attending the Department of Education’s summit today on higher education reform, I wanted to briefly note an interesting development related to the FAFSA form. As readers might remember, it has long been the view of this blog that the FAFSA form is an absolute mess and should be whittled down significantly. Some private consultants that we are friends with have even suggested that most of the information that the FAFSA provides can be found in other federal documents such as tax filings.

That’s why it’s good news that legislation has been formally introduced in Congress that would greatly simplify the FAFSA form and that the Department of Ed is going to put online a new calculator that will allow families to figure out ahead of time what their FAFSA forms will probably tell them.

Now, I am not familiar with the specifics of the legislation shortening the FAFSA, nor do I know much about whether this proposed calculator will work, be effective, etc. But at face value, both proposals seem to be steps in the right direction and address concerns that we have had about the FAFSA form being overly complex, cumbersome, and a stumbling block for the people that it is intended to help. It’s refreshing to see our political leaders in both the Legislative and Executive branches enacting reforms that will make life easier for real people.

That all being said, these are still baby steps. Reforming the FAFSA and allowing parents more information about the form are both solid policy proposals. But let’s not kid ourselves. These are not broad, imaginative, or daring reforms of higher education. For that, we will have to wait for another day.

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