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Changes to FAFSA impact collection of parent information

Jan 21, 2014

DES MOINES — Iowa College Student Aid Commission is announcing changes to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid form that take effect with the 2014-15 form.

The FAFSA is a standardized application used to determine eligibility for federal grants, loans and work-study funds from the federal government. In addition, many colleges and states, including Iowa, use FAFSA information when determining eligibility for institutional and state financial aid programs.

The changes to the FAFSA for the 2014-15 academic year have to do with the financial information that dependent students are required to provide for their parents. Most traditional-aged, college-bound students are considered dependent and must include financial information for both themselves as well as their parents when completing the FAFSA. Beginning with the 2014-15 FAFSA, dependent students are now required to include income and other financial information from their legal parents — biological or adoptive — regardless of the parents’ marital status or gender, if those parents live together.

Additionally, the FAFSA will now use terms like “Parent 1 (father/mother/stepparent)” and “Parent 2 (father/mother/stepparent)” instead of gender-specific terms.

“Before this year, the FAFSA was constructed to collect information about both of a dependent student’s parents only if the parents were married,” explained Karen Misjak, executive director of Iowa College Aid. “As a result, the FAFSA excluded this information from some families solely because the parents weren’t married, even though the families resided in the same household.”

Iowa College Aid urges all college-bound students to complete the FAFSA regardless of their financial situations.

“Most families are eligible for some form of financial aid, and they need to apply early to meet the priority deadlines associated with different programs,” said Misjak.

As families complete the 2014-15 FAFSA, a new response of “Unmarried and both parents live together” will be included as a response to the question about the marital status of the dependent student’s parents. The federal “Defense of Marriage Act” provides that for federal purposes, including for the federal student aid programs, the word marriage means “a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife.” Therefore, a student’s same-sex parents who are married under the authority of a state or foreign county should respond to the question about marital status as “Unmarried and both parents living together” if the parents are the student’s legal parents and they live together.

The collection of FAFSA information for both of a dependent student’s unmarried parents when both parents are living together will not impact the majority of federal student aid applicants. Almost 60 percent of FAFSA filers are independent, and therefore, not impacted by these changes. Another 20 percent, while dependent are not impacted as their parents are married. A portion of the remainder also will not be impacted because the parent with whom the student resides does not live with the student’s other legal parent.

Students and families who have questions about applying for financial aid or are interested in learning more about the resources available for college and career planning can call Iowa College Aid at 877-272-4456. Additional resources are available on Iowa College Aid’s website www.IowaCollegeAid.gov.

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