Today, Scholarship America joined a diverse coalition of education organizations to encourage the use of existing tax data (“prior-prior year data”) as a way of allowing families to complete their Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) in an easier, more timely way. From the organization’s letter to President Obama:
“The undersigned organizations representing students, scholarship providers, and college administrators, advocates for college access and completion, and policy organizations write to urge you to further simplify the college financial aid process for millions of students and their families by directing the Secretary of Education to base federal student aid eligibility on the tax data that are available when students typically apply to college. Congress specifically authorized the Secretary of Education to address this long-standing problem in the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008, and there is strong bipartisan support for simplifying the aid application process.
“Your Administration has already made the process much faster and easier for many students, but for millions more the process remains far too complicated and time-consuming. Moreover, students and families still cannot apply for aid until after typical college application deadlines, because the federal aid application requires tax information that is not yet available. …
“One of the primary ways your Administration has greatly simplified the federal aid application process is by letting students and parents electronically transfer their tax information into the online Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). By using the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Data Retrieval Tool (DRT), applicants can skip up to 20 high-stakes FAFSA questions. However, due to major timing obstacles, millions of students are not able to benefit from this simplified process. This is because the FAFSA currently requires tax data for a calendar year that has not yet ended or is barely over when college applications are typically due. The FAFSA goes online on January 1, but the DRT that makes it much easier to complete is not available until early February, and applicants who have not yet filed their taxes cannot use the DRT.”