FAFSA needs to improve

Written by: Libby Thoma | Staff Writer

A college degree is necessary for many higher-level jobs that pay a fair and livable wage, but are inaccessible to many who are of lower income. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid — FAFSA — as most students already understand, is vital for receiving financial aid for college and therefore, for most, vital to being able to attend college. Although it is widely understood that FAFSA is the key to the future students dream about, it is overall unfair and discriminatory towards those in underprivileged communities. 

Before contemplating the prejudices of FAFSA, the technical issues must be addressed. FAFSA has an entire website page dedicated to its issues. These issues include not being able to find one’s school, parents not being able to access FAFSA after starting the form on behalf of the student, FAFSA saying the form is in progress even when completed and an entire list more. These issues can prevent students from accessing the financial aid they need, especially in a timely manner.

Completing FAFSA promptly is necessary due to the application being on a first come first serve basis. 

Along with these technical issues, FAFSA bases a student’s financial aid benefits based on their parent’s income. This is a problem in a multitude of ways. In the U.S., a person 18 or older is considered an adult, so it must be asked — why are adults’ financial aid being based on their parent’s income? How does being an adult not automatically make one an independent person? Due to many parents not paying tuition and possibly being unwilling to fill the required forms, shouldn’t fall into their hands either. Students looking to receive what they need to be able to attend college can make huge decisions, such as getting married or joining the armed forces, just to receive an often necessary education. Parents should not be in charge of a student’s financial aid, the student should be.

FAFSA puts those in underprivileged households or families, such as undocumented citizens, children without access to parents or legal caregivers who aren’t considered independent, at more of a disadvantage. Although FAFSA’s website states otherwise, students with parents missing an SSN were unable to complete the FAFSA without their SSN. Although this was seemingly fixed recently, FAFSA’s ‘first come first serve’ approach has caused students to miss out on financial aid opportunities because of this oversight. Along with this, students who are labeled as ‘dependents’ on their parents’ taxes but are not on speaking terms with their parents or caregivers are also at a disadvantage. In this case, students would not be able to receive financial aid through FAFSA unless they contacted their parents. People may cut ties with their families for many reasons such as abuse, unacceptance of their identity and so much more, and that should be honored and respected. Instead, FAFSA will not grant any financial aid to these students, limiting their educational opportunities. 

Contact the author at ethoma23@mail.wou.edu