Summary: The Secretary of Education requests comments on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) that the Secretary proposes to use for the 1999-2000 award year. The FAFSA is completed by students and their families and the information submitted on the form is used to determine the students' eligibility and financial need for the student financial assistance programs authorized under Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended, (Title IV, HEA Programs).
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[Federal Register: November 24, 1997 (Volume 62, Number 226)]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION
Notice of Proposed Information Collection Requests
AGENCY: Department of Education.
ACTION: Proposed collection; comment request.
SUMMARY: The Secretary of Education requests comments on the Free
Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) that the Secretary proposes
to use for the 1999-2000 award year. The FAFSA is completed by students
and their families and the information submitted on the form is used to
determine the students' eligibility and financial need for the student
financial assistance programs authorized under Title IV of the Higher
Education Act of 1965, as amended, (Title IV, HEA Programs).
DATES: Interested persons are invited to submit comments on or before
January 23, 1998.
ADDRESSES: Written comments and requests for copies of the proposed
information collection requests should be addressed to Patrick J.
Sherrill, Department of Education, 600 Independence Avenue, S.W., Room
5624, Regional Office Building 3, Washington, DC 20202-4651. In
addition, interested persons can access this document at the following
http://www.ed.gov/offices/OPE/Professionals. Once at this website, the
reader should go to the ``What's New'' area to locate the 1999-2000
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Patrick J. Sherrill (202) 708-8196.
Individuals who use a telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD) may
call the Federal Information Relay Service (FIRS) at 1-800-877-8339
between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m., Eastern time, Monday through Friday.
SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Section 483 of the Higher Education Act of
1965, as amended (HEA), requires the Secretary, ``in cooperation with
agencies and organizations involved in providing student financial
assistance,'' to ``produce, distribute and process free of charge a
common financial reporting form to be used to determine the need and
eligibility of a student under'' the Title IV, HEA Programs. This form
is the FAFSA. In addition, section 483 authorizes the Secretary to
include on the FAFSA up to eight non-financial data items that would
assist States in awarding State student financial assistance.
Over the past several years, the Secretary, in cooperation with the
above described agencies and organizations, has added questions to the
form. Those questions were added to accommodate the needs of States
that administer State student aid programs, and of institutions of
higher education that administer the Title IV, HEA Programs. They were
also added to facilitate eliminating or reducing the number of State
and institutional forms that a student and his or her family must
complete in order to receive student financial assistance.
In a notice published in the Federal Register of March 18, 1997,
the Secretary noted that the Department of Education was reengineering
the FAFSA and looking anew at all the questions on the form. The
Secretary asked for comment on questions that applicants were not
required to answer in order to have their eligibility and need for
Title IV, HEA Programs determined. The Secretary also requested comment
with regard to which of the questions were integral to State student
aid programs. The Secretary wishes to emphasize that he was not
considering eliminating a question merely because he listed that
question for comment.
In addition to requesting comments in that notice regarding the
1999-2000 FAFSA, in May and June of this year, the Secretary convened
public meetings in New York, St. Louis, San Diego, and Washington,
D.C., for the purpose of receiving comments on early drafts of the
reengineered FAFSA. Further, at the invitation of the National
Association of Student Financial Aid Officers (NASFAA), in July the
Department conducted a forum on a later draft of the reengineered FAFSA
at NASFAA's annual convention in Philadelphia.
The FAFSA on which comments are requested reflects the many worthy
and helpful comments the Department received during the Spring and
Summer of this year. The adoption of many of these comments has made
the FAFSA easier for applicants to understand and complete.
With regard to the data elements to be included in the FAFSA, it
was necessary to balance often competing considerations. Those
considerations included whether requested data was necessary for
Federal purposes, whether data produced accurate and verifiable
information, whether data was needed by a State as part of its State
student aid program, and whether the elimination of data on the FAFSA
would lead to the reintroduction of State forms. As a result of
evaluating those considerations, only five date elements were
The reengineered FAFSA differs from the current FAFSA as described
below. References to the current FAFSA are to the 1997-98 FAFSA.
<bullet> Five data elements were eliminated that provided
information that was of marginal value or could be easily obtained by
another means. Those data elements are (1) applicant's permanent
telephone number (question 10); (2) applicant's course of study
(question 29); (3) date applicant expects to graduate (question 31);
(4) whether applicant will attend the same college (question 36), and
(5) applicant's release of information to state agencies (question
<bullet> To make finding the actual application easier and to
increase the probability that users will actually read instructions
necessary to answer a particular question, the overall length of the
document was reduced from 16 pages to eight pages. Instructions and
background information were reduced from 12 pages to four pages, with
one of these pages consisting of worksheets. To minimize the impact on
processing, the application form itself remained four pages.
<bullet> To orient users, the first page prominently describes what
kinds of aid an applicant may receive using the application and the
telephone numbers that users may call for help.
<bullet> To serve as a navigational aid, answer fields are
highlighted, one color for students and another color for parents.
During usability testing, users were especially appreciative of this
<bullet> To reduce confusion, the use of shortcut devices was
eliminated. For example, users are not asked to navigate coordinates
(columns and rows).
<bullet> With regard to the ``simplified needs test,'' it was
discovered through iterative design and usability testing that it was
simpler and less burdensome to have applicants answer questions
regarding their assets than it was for them to figure out whether they
needed to answer those questions. Also, applicants who did not have to
answer asset questions for Federal purposes may have to answer those
questions for State purposes. As a result, all applicants will be
required to answer asset questions. For the same reasons, the form
could not be successfully designed to facilitate the ``zero EFC''
<bullet> Worksheets were not given a name. Early usability testing
showed that users frequently saw the name of a worksheet, assumed it
did not apply to them, and ignored it. In later testing, all users
looked at the worksheets. This later success was attributed to the fact
that the worksheets are not named, the document is now much shorter,
and the worksheets are easier to find.
<bullet> Users are now advised to complete their tax forms before
filling out the FAFSA. Questions relating to filing estimated tax forms
were eliminated (questions 56 C and D and 65 C and D).
As a result, more accurate income information should be reported.
<bullet> The wording of several questions was simplified and
clarified. Instead of asking users for their ``title'', the form
explains that males must be registered with the Selective Service and
then asks if the users are male and want to be registered.
<bullet> The FAFSA no longer asks students whether they plan to
attend various semesters on a \time basis. The term ``attending''
was substituted for ``enrolled'' because students had a tendency to
fill in only the Fall term, which is the term in which they generally
<bullet> The FAFSA now asks for the name and address of the
institution before it asks for the Title IV code. The FAFSA also tells
the applicant where to find the Title IV code.
The Secretary is publishing this request for comment under the
provisions of the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995, 44 U.S.C. 3501 et
seq. Under that Act, ED must obtain the review and approval of the
Office of Management and Budget (OMB) before it may use a form to
collect information. However, under the procedure for obtaining
approval from OMB, ED must first obtain public comment on the proposed
form, and to obtain that comment, ED must publish this notice in the
To accommodate the requirements of the Paperwork Reduction Act, the
Secretary is interested in receiving comments with regard to the
following matters: (1) Is this collection necessary to the proper
functions of the Department, (2) will this information be processed and
used in a timely manner, (3) is the estimate of burden accurate, (4)
how might the Department enhance the quality, utility, and clarity of
the information to be collected, and (5) how might the Department
minimize the burden of this collection on the respondents, including
through the use of information technology.
Dated: November 19, 1997.
Deputy Chief Information Officer, Office of the Chief Information
Office of Postsecondary Education
Type of Review: Revision.
Title: Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
Affected Public: Individuals and families.
Annual Reporting and Recordkeeping Hour Burden:
Burden Hours: 6,274,770
Abstract: The FAFSA collects identifying and financial information
about a student and his or her family if the student applies for Title
IV, Higher Education Act (HEA) Program funds. This information is used
to calculate the student's expected family contribution, which is used
to determine a student's financial need. The information is also used
to determine the student's eligibility for grants and loans under the
Title IV, HEA Programs. It is further used for determining a student's
eligibility and need for State and institutional financial aid
[FR Doc. 97-30810 Filed 11-21-97; 8:45 am]
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