The Obama administration is introducing a shorter and simpler Free Application for Federal Student Aid form that takes advantage of information from the IRS to streamline the application process for college financial aid.

The changes — some of which are already in place while others will be phased in over the next few months — are designed to increase postsecondary enrollment, particularly among low- and middle-income students.

“President Obama has challenged the nation to once again have the highest percentage of college graduates in the world,” said Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who announced the revised online application form with IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman. “To do that, we need to make the college-going process easier and more convenient, and to send a clear message to young people as well as adults that college is within their reach. Simplifying the financial aid process is an important step toward reaching that goal.”

The new Web-based FAFSA application form will be available this summer and will use “enhanced skip logic” to reduce user navigation by more than half, the Department of Education estimates. To make the process less time consuming, starting in January 2010, students applying for financial aid for the spring semester will be able to retrieve their relevant tax information from the IRS to help complete the online FAFSA. The Department of Education and the IRS will be working together to examine the possibility of expanding this option to all students in the future.

The Obama administration also plans to introduce legislation seeking statutory authority from Congress to eliminate financial information from the aid calculation formula that is not available from the IRS. This will remove 26 financial questions from the FAFSA form that have little impact on aid awards and can be difficult to complete. Only questions that rely upon information that applicants must already provide to the IRS would remain.

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