Though a graduating high school student has many things to look forward to about college, filling out the Federal Application For Student Aid is probably not one of them. Better known as FAFSA, this long and confusing form is a necessary evil for any students who want help covering their skyrocketing tuition. But starting in 2010, applying for financial aid should get a little easier after FAFSA is simplified. Trimming the fat off of FAFSA won’t entirely solve the problem, though: The federal government needs a financial aid application that better reflects students’ circumstances, and universities, including this one, need to end the use of redundant supplemental applications.

Necessary for all kinds of federal financial aid, FAFSA is a six-page marathon of unnecessary, jargon-laden financial history questions that factor into the all-important “expected family contribution.” According to U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings all that is supposed to change after the application is cut from six to three pages. Spellings hopes these changes will provide for greater access to financial aid by encouraging more students to fill out the FAFSA.

It’s about time. There are dozens of questions that could be cut. Aside from being redundant, many of the questions are ones that students have a difficult time answering on their own because they are overly technical. Asking for this information is unnecessarily confusing for students, particularly students who don’t have parents helping them and are the ones in greatest need of aid.

FAFSA’s face-lift doesn’t address one of the application’s other big problems: Some questions paint an inaccurate portrait of a student’s financial situation. For example, FAFSA factors heavily the income level of a student’s parents, even if they are not making significant contributions to a student’s tuition. These salary figures misrepresent the needs of students who may have well-off parents, but are paying for college on their own.

Recognizing FAFSA’s inadequacies, many universities have jumped on a disturbing bandwagon: asking students to fill out supplemental student aid forms as well. The University of Michigan is one of these schools, forcing incoming freshmen to fill out the College Scholarship Search Financial Aid PROFILE. While allegedly designed to allow the University to better assess students’ financial need, this supplemental form is just confusing and redundant.

What’s the good in simplifying the FAFSA if universities just move the redundancy to whole new forms? If a question is important, it should be on the FAFSA, which should be as short and convenient as possible. The University should push the federal government toward this goal.

Applying for financial aid may never be a painless process. But the government and the University have a responsibility to make it as easy as possible for students to apply. Asking for just one simple form shouldn’t be too much to ask.

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