By Kavitha Cardoza
Students applying to college this year are using the simplified federal student financial aid form. And with the poor economy, the nation's top education official hopes this will encourage more students to apply for assistance.
Brenda Reyes, 17, at Banneker High School in Northwest D.C. is filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA form, online. None of her family members have gone to college so she was nervous about the process until she compared the old and new forms.
"The original form is 22 pages. This is only 10 pages long. It's better for me since I'm first to ever go," says Reyes. "I'll be a role model for my little sister so that she can go."
The form is used to determine whether a student is eligible for loans and grants. It's been shortened and students can skip questions that aren't relevant to them. Students applying for aid will soon be able to retrieve and import their tax data from the IRS.
"Going to college has never been more important, it's never been more expensive, families have never been under more financial duress," says Arne Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Education. "So giving students access to the over $100 billion is hugely important."
Virginia's Governor Tim Kaine has proposed cutting higher education by 26 percent. And in Maryland, the university system has laid off staff and instituted furloughs in response to budget reductions.