Streamlined FAFSA: A Path to Greater College Access 

The FAFSA effectively serves as the gateway to higher education for millions of students each academic year. However, the complex and extensive nature of the FAFSA has resulted in significant underutilization of federal aid. In fact, just 61 percent of high school seniors complete the application by the time they graduate, leaving $24 billion in federal aid unclaimed. Moreover, a significant portion of students initially file an application, but fail to enroll in a higher education institution. As illustrated in the adjacent figure, only 31 percent of low-income students enroll in higher education with the assistance of a Pell Grant, suggesting that this issue disproportionately affects low-income students. NCAN's research demonstrates that this is indeed the case. Thus, the evidence is clear: Federal policymakers must simplify the FAFSA as a means to expand access to higher education.

NCAN’s simplified FAFSA model, the Streamlined FAFSA, has been proven to improve filing outcomes. This tested model minimizes burden for students, meets the needs of institutions, eliminates excess, and maintains universality. An updated FSA ID, increased efficiency of the IRS DRT, and the exclusion of duplicative questions yielded largely positive results when the Streamlined FAFSA was put to the test. The three pathways within this model have been proven to:

  • Increase satisfaction and usability for families  
  • Improve completion time by 39 percent
  • Reduce error rate by 56 percent

Overall, the Streamlined FAFSA will provide low-income families with the financial and emotional relief they need when preparing for college. Increased transparency will ensure that families who receive a federal means-tested benefit that their student will qualify for a maximum Pell Grant. Those who do not will benefit from a smoother and less difficult application process. This efficient methodology will result in a 5.1-percent increase in Pell expenditures. Moreover, such newfound efficiency would undoubtedly increase awareness of the federal aid that lies at the fingertips of prospective college students. Please see below for additional resources and ways to engage in the FAFSA simplification conversation.



NCAN Statements:

Join the Conversation on Twitter:

Shorter. Faster. Easier. More Accurate. Click to explore the @collegeaccess Streamlined FAFSA model: http://ow.ly/tWH8307UC1V #FixFAFSA #highered

#FAFSA filing boosts college enrollment and completion. The @collegeaccess Streamlined FAFSA simplifies #FinAid for #students who need it most: http://ow.ly/tWH8307UC1V #highered