HWSers Appreciate New FAFSA – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

HWSers Appreciate New FAFSA

According to John Young, director of admissions, the recent changes to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)  turned what’s a boilerplate form into a smart form that changes questions based on what you answer. He was quoted in an article in the Finger Lakes Times about the new form.

“For some people, it’s taking a form with 150 questions, and [it] has shrunk that down by 20 percent in a lot of cases,” Young said.

Among the people who appreciate the changes is William Smith first-year Sabina Khatun. According to the Times, “Khatun filled out the form for the first time last semester with a mentor and help from the Colleges. This past week, she went solo, and she said she noticed there was less information required and that she didn’t need to take breaks to complete it.”

The complete article about the new FAFSA, with additional quotes from Young, follows.


Finger Lakes Times
Easier online aid forms aimed at getting more students to apply
Changes expected to be helpful for students with non-English speaking parents

David Taube • January 27, 2010

GENEVA – For college students like William Smith freshman Sabina Khatun, an improved federal form for financial aid has meant less reading and instantaneous help when needed.

Khatun filled out the form for the first time last semester with a mentor and help from the college. This past week, she went solo, and she said she noticed there was less information required and that she didn’t need to take breaks to complete it.

The online version of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) was simplified this January by reducing the number of questions asked and providing an alternative way to retrieve tax information. Most students at Hobart and William Smith Colleges and Finger Lakes Community College – 80 percent and 75 percent, respectively – receive some sort of financial aid. At Keuka College, its 99 percent.

Khatun said the changes make sense. New information boxes next to questions can be clicked to get more details, she said. When a text box is completed, the computer cursor also automatically moves to the next, she said.

“[The changes] turned what’s a boilerplate form into a smart form that changes questions based on what you answer,” said HWS Director of Admissions John Young, who compared the improvements to using the simplified 1040EZ tax form in lieu of the standard 1040 tax form.

“For some people, it’s taking a form with 150 questions, and [it] has shrunk that down by 20 percent in a lot of cases,” Young said.

Those questions had no bearing on how aid was awarded, he added.

The omitted questions aren’t necessary for some students, such as requesting asset information from low-income students, Young said.

Another new feature for the updated online application allows students to transfer IRS tax information directly into the FAFSA form.

“The form will automatically dump in a lot of their tax return rather than requiring them to find it all and punch it in themselves, [making] it a lot simpler for students and their families,” Young said.

But only some students will be able to test the new IRS retrieval feature for now. The U.S. Education Department expects to allow more students to do so after this summer.

Young said the improvement could particularly help students whose parents are non-native English speakers.

“You can imagine a 17- or 18-year-old trying to be dutiful with parents [who] may not be as savvy with these forms,” he said.

According to a January 2009 report by the U.S. Education Department, “40 percent of college students, nearly eight million, never even apply for federal aid, even though most of them would be eligible for assistance.”

The new form was one measure to help reduce the burden on students and families completing the FAFSA, the report says.