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Financial aid made easier: FAFSA to move to a mobile app

Thursday, November 30, 2017
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Financial aid made easier: FAFSA to move to a mobile app
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In a speech made during the 2017 Federal Student Aid Training Conference in Orlando, Florida, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced that the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) will be moving to a mobile app. Students are required to complete the FAFSA form to apply for federal student aid for college, career school or graduate school.

Simplifying the process
Currently, there are several ways to submit a FAFSA form: online, filling out a form print-out and mailing it for processing, and filing through a school's financial aid office (if applicable). DeVos wants to streamline the process, making it easier and more accessible for students.

"Students should be able to complete their FAFSA easily on their phones and in one sitting," DeVos said. "They should receive expert, tailored advice about their options. It's called 'student aid,' after all. And throughout the life of their loans, students should be able to communicate directly — by texting or chatting or whatever the most current method is — with professionals whose primary duty is to them."

DeVos wants the application process to be as simple as a few taps and swipes on a smartphone and noted that applying for federal student aid should be in line with everyday activities such as ordering food, checking your account balance and sending money to a friend.

"We must simplify the process for students," DeVos said. "When barriers to entry are high, fewer students — especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds — even attempt the journey, let alone succeed."

If all goes according to plan, students will be able to apply for the FAFSA via their smartphone.If all goes according to plan, students will be able to apply for the FAFSA via their smartphone.

She emphasized the lack of continuity in the experience, with students going through different channels and multiple service providers from the time of their eligibility for a loan until payments are made. The change also came about as a result of feedback gathered from students, with one saying that "the FAFSA is really complicated" and another mentioning that it was "a tedious process."

Additionally, the initiative will involve enhancing cybersecurity measures to better protect applicants' personal data, according to DeVos. These improvements are a response to increased threats to digital security.

The Secretary of Education said that the new system will be one of the most significant changes ever made to the federal student aid process.

"I acknowledge that change can be scary," DeVos said. "But we owe it to students to do better. We know students can do extraordinary things. There's no limit to what they can achieve. Let's demonstrate our belief in their potential by making their financial aid process a world-class experience."

The next FAFSA deadlines
For the 2017-2018 year, the deadline for application is June 30, 2018. For the 2018-2019 year, the FAFSA form is now available and you can apply until June 30, 2019. The Federal Student Aid Office has provided a guide which gives you an overview of the application form and walks you through each application question. Make sure to check the FAFSA page regularly for any updates and changes.

It's important to note that your FAFSA information is used by various states and a number of colleges to determine if you qualify for state or school aid. You should, therefore, verify state deadlines and check with your graduate school's financial aid office for school deadlines. If you're applying for aid through a private provider, it's also worth checking if they need your FAFSA information to make a decision on your eligibility for their aid.

Other options aside from federal aid
Beyond the FAFSA, you can also see if schools have fellowships, grants, research and teaching assistantships, and associated foundations that can help you. You can also obtain financial aid from the military, corporations, philanthropic organizations and trade associations associated with your field of study.

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