The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill in September that would eliminate those questions from the application. The U.S. Senate is now considering the legislation.
“Anything to make it simpler,” Amaral said. If the House bill passes both Congressional chambers, he said, “most of the items will already be filled out for [students].”
Johnson said the new online FAFSA form automatically will skip questions that don’t apply to certain students. For example, if a student says she is 24 years old–and therefore an independent–the FAFSA web site will not follow up with questions about parents’ income.
“The technology is getting better,” he said. “It’s getting smarter.”
Help text that clarifies definitions for applicants now will disappear when it’s no longer relevant–a change from help text in previous online FAFSA forms that crowded a large part of the computer screen.
Students should take about 30 minutes to complete the FAFSA form, Johnson said, and the simplified online version could save about 10 minutes.
“It’s not like you save half a day,” Johnson said. “If you have the information you need [to fill out the form], you can have no problem. The difficulty is when people see the question and they don’t want to put the answer down.”
Amaral said he has seen infrequent attempts to cheat on FAFSA forms.
“It’s really amazing how accurate and honest the great majority of people are,” he said. “They want to do it right, because they want to help their kid.”
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