The new online version of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) will allow college applicants to skip series of questions that don’t apply to them and includes help text and easily accessible instructions, changes designed to make it easier to apply for aid. The changes include allowing low-income students to bypass a series of questions about their families’ financial assets–a technology known as “skip logic.” College students applying for federal aid for the 2010-11 school year will complete the streamlined FAFSA form, which eliminates 22 questions and 17 web screens from the older version. The new FAFSA form unveiled Jan. 5 will not ask first-year students about drug convictions. It eliminates questions about veterans’ benefits, and it does away with questions about legal residency for applicants who have lived at the same address for five years or more. Applicants who are financially dependent, but whose parents refuse to submit their tax information, now will be able to submit the FAFSA without parental information and qualify for unsubsidized student loans, according to the Education Department’s Jan. 5 announcement. Sherwood Johnson, director of financial aid at Brooklyn College, said the new online FAFSA form automatically skips questions that don’t apply to certain students. For example, if a student says she is 24 years old–and therefore an independent–the FAFSA web site will not follow up with questions about parents’ income. “The technology is getting better,” he said. “It’s getting smarter.”

http://www.fafsa.ed.gov/

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Jeff Festa