FAFSA’s Going Mobile – and Bringing Some Friends Along

November 29, 2017

By MorraLee Keller, Director of Technical Assistance

The Federal Student Aid Training Conference has been filled with exciting announcements about the future of the aid experience for students. Perhaps one of the best announcements is that a mobile platform for FAFSA-filing and other functions is under development and in testing. 

FSA Chief Operating Officer A. Wayne Johnson spoke in Orlando this week about aligning the student aid experience with the current technology and giving students a “world-class” experience when it comes to the entire financial aid process. 

The first iteration of the mobile app, expected to debut in spring of 2018, will accept FAFSA submissions and automatically display EFCs and expected Pell Grants. Users will be able to log in and complete sections on the app or FAFSA website with their identifying information and save key, and the information entered will be saved in real time. A future version of the app will allow students and parents to complete their sections at different times, on different devices, and they’ll be joined together prior to submission.

"The mobile app is going to be amazing,” said Holly Morrow, vice president of knowledge at NCAN member uAspire. “Huge game changer. Not just about completing the FAFSA via a phone, but a whole suite of student-facing and engaging items."

Indeed, Johnson’s vision for the mobile experience extends far beyond just an app for the FAFSA. The app may include concepts such as a “myChecklist” section that would create for customers a personalized checklist based on where they are in the student aid lifecycle. Another feature, the “mySchool” section, would allow colleges to provide customized content for their students. And the features keep going: “myMoney” would introduce a prepaid debit card that students could use to receive financial aid refunds from institutions, as well as receive money from family, send money, or pay bills. As students are moving through the aid cycle, “myLoans” would enable them to manage their student load debt and access their credit score and reports.

Another idea in the works is “myRewards,” which would allow students to sign up for an FSA rewards program. FSA is also seeking conceptual input on potential “myMessages and “myGrants” sections.

The first versions of the app will not have a feature to make corrections to the FAFSA or view and print a Student Aid Report. However, students and parents will be able to use the app to transfer their data using the IRS DRT. The app will require an FSA ID to log in and complete sections, but undocumented parents will still have to submit the paper signature page to complete their FAFSA submission.

Throughout the conference, FSA staff let attendees test the pilot app and provide input and feedback to make sure it’s as user-friendly as possible. NCAN applauds FSA’s efforts and vision as we head into the future of new student aid cycle. Johnson’s vast experience in the credit card and student loan industries should allow for a dramatic upgrade in online and mobile services for students and families.

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