Editorial, Opinion

STAFF EDIT: Cut paperwork, increase aid

Processing student aid applications costs the federal government $2.3 billion each year, according to a 2008 Harvard University study. While this sum may seem like small potatoes as the federal government faces down a financial maelstrom, Congress and the next president’s administration would be ill advised to stall reforms to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid suggested by Education Secretary Margaret Spellings.
Both presidential candidates have promised to simplify the student aid process. Sen. Barack Obama has said he would add a box to federal tax forms so families could indicate their information should be used for education grant and loan consideration, thus eliminating the need for the FAFSA. Sen. John McCain has vowed to consolidate programs to make it easier for students to navigate an often confusing and discouraging application process.
The benefits of streamlining or eliminating paper-pushing for families and government administrators are self-evident. By saving time ‘-‘- millions of hours, according to the Harvard study ‘-‘- and money wasted on bureaucracy, the Department of Education can allocate more grant and subsidized loan funds for students. The federal government expects even more applications for student loans than ever before as family incomes and investment funds for tuition are threatened and credit once available for student loans disappears. Now more than ever, the department cannot ignore an opportunity to pare down paperwork. The suggestions of Spellings’s Commission on the Future of Higher Education could not come at a more crucial time.
Simplifying the student aid application process also offers legislators an opportunity to make sure education funds get to students who most need them ‘-‘- those who may be first-generation college students with parents unfamiliar with higher education financing, who cannot afford to hire outside application preparation services. As the FAFSA is shortened and simplified, the government must continue to collect adequate information ‘-‘- from tax returns or other documents ‘-‘- to fairly dole out college grants.
While serious questions about markets and money await the next president, the role of education in shaping a stable economy will never diminish in importance. Not only will educated Americans set the pace for economic and technological progress, they will also participate in the activities that create and sustain economic growth.
Making the FAFSA shorter is a great short-term goal for the Education Department, but this must not be the limit of financial aid reform. Families must learn early on how to budget for college and proper expectations for university costs. High school seniors who are aged 18 years but able to take on debt equivalent to a mortgage must receive detailed and unbiased information about the values and risks of investing in higher education, where costs range from modest to exorbitant. The quality of higher education cannot be cut during lean times, but any wasted costs must be trimmed.

Website | More Articles

This is an account occasionally used by the Daily Free Press editors to post archived posts from previous iterations of the site or otherwise for special circumstance publications. See authorship info on the byline at the top of the page.

Comments are closed.