Our View: FAFSA standards, setting up for failure

By Herald Editorial Staff
On March 10, 2014

The recent deadline to apply for federal aid has left money on many students’ minds.

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, has long been the guideline in determining how much money a student can get from the government, as well as how much their families are expected to pay for their schooling.

In order for a student to qualify as an independent on the FAFSA, they must meet one of the qualifications. They must be 24 or older, be married, have been in the military, have a dependent child or have legally been emancipated from their parents.

Those who qualify as independent can usually get higher levels of federal financial aid for school. This is based off of the fact that they have no outside financial sources paying for their schooling, and many have lower levels of income if they are supporting someone else.

Those who are dependent usually get lower levels of financial aid, because it is expected that their family help pay. FAFSA uses a formula to determine a family’s expected contribution based off of factors such as income, tax information and number of siblings.

This presents a problem, however, when it comes to individual cases. While the government can strongly encourage parents to chip in on their child’s education, they cannot force them to.

In some cases, outside factors can make a family unable to contribute, despite tax information showing otherwise. In other cases, a student may have no contact with his or her family, despite being forced to include their family’s tax information because they do not technically qualify as independent.

This leaves many students with a gap where their expected family contribution should be. The only ways to fill these gaps are for students to foot the bill themselves, with student loans, working while in college and even taking time off to earn more money.

A hundred years ago, parents did not always expect their students to go to college. If they did, the parents were usually not the ones to foot the bill.

Today, the cost of living is higher, and minimum wage has not risen as fast as the inflation of the dollar. The government continues to push initiatives for all students to have some form of education after high school graduation.

Meanwhile, grants and federal aid amounts are going down, while tuition and student loan interest rates are going up. Scholarships are harder to earn many private investors weary of monetary donations in a down economy.

After seeing all of the factors, it is easy to see how the federal aid system for higher education is on its way to collapse.

Just because the government thinks parents ought to help with their child’s education, doesn’t mean they can, or even that they should. Looking only at tax information to determine how much a student should pay is a one-size-fits-all policy that is outdated for today’s families.

It is time for Federal Aid to change its standards on who deserves money for school. Sticking with the status quo has detrimental effects for the middle class, and will ultimately limit the access to education for future generations.

“Our View” is written by the editorial staff. Opinions are not necessarily reflective of students, faculty or administration of ASU.

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