The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is an important tool for students to access federal, state, and institutional aid. Congressional efforts to simplify the questions on the form are welcome, but eliminating the form altogether will lead states and colleges to require students to fill out supplemental aid forms, making the overall system more, not less, complicated for families.
FAFSA Simplification: Proponents of simplifying the FAFSA application process argue that limiting the questions on the FAFSA would eliminate a barrier to access. While removing barriers to access is desirable, the details of the various simplification proposals do matter. Many proposals seem appealing at first glance, but upon further review are found to fall short in addressing financial aid objectives. It is critical that efforts towards simplification do not cause unintended distortions, favor certain sectors or students over others, lead to the proliferation of multiple state or institutional aid forms, or facilitate fraud in the allocation of aid or its delivery.
Prior, prior year (PPY): Starting with the 2017-18 school year, the federal government will use PPY income data to determine federal financial aid eligibility. The FAFSA moved forward and became available on October 1, 2016. The change means that students and families will know what their federal student aid is sooner. The date change may present some hurdles for states and institutions whose student aid budgets are determined later in the academic year, and require financial aid packaging procedures to be revised. In addition, Democratic Members of Congress have expressed concern that moving up applications for state and institutional aid may disadvantage low-income students.