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FAFSA Changes to Simplify Financial-Aid Process for NC Students

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Wednesday, October 26, 2022   

Changes to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid next year are expected to simplify the process and shorten the amount of time it takes to complete the form, according to financial-aid experts in North Carolina.

Research from the National Center for Education Statistics shows 88% of high school seniors who filed out the form in 2012 attended college within the next few years, compared to 49% who did not.

Marissa Jones, assistant director of financial Aid at William Peace University, said the Department of Education is also removing questions related to military Selective Service and drug convictions.

"The important thing for students to keep in mind is when they're asked those questions, they would need to answer them, just because the application won't be submitted without it," Jones pointed out. "But the Department of Education removed those rules being a requirement."

One-third of North Carolina undergraduates receive federal student loans, according to the Education Data Initiative. The state spends around $390 million each year on financial aid. To begin the process or learn more, visit the website studentaid.gov.

Kathryn Marker, director of grants, training, and outreach for the North Carolina State Education Assistance Authority, explained next year's form will be pared down significantly.

"The number of questions is going to be reduced from 108 to about 36," Marker noted. "More of the questions will be aligned with federal income-tax returns, which simplifies the data that families and students have to apply."

Jones emphasized the form is the first step toward unlocking financial aid.

"It takes about half an hour, if you have all your documents in front of you," Jones explained. "That seems like a fair deal to me, to spend half an hour on an application and potentially get a chunk of money to help pay for college."

According to the National College Attainment Network, nearly $4 billion in Pell Grants -- distributed to low-income students who have completed the form -- went unclaimed in 2021.

Disclosure: William Peace University contributes to our fund for reporting on Education. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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