Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The Future of FAFSA: Questions on Collecting Parent Information

Contributions from: Justin Chase Brown - The University of Missouri, Melissa Haberman - University of Wisconsin Colleges, Jayme Jarrett - Ohio Northern University, Susan Johnson - University of Wisconsin-Whitewater

Recent changes were announced to the 2014-2015 FAFSA leaving some administrators with questions about how to handle these changes. Below are some of our thoughts. Please let us know yours.

Summary of Changes
Beginning with the 2014-2015 FAFSA, dependent students will be required to include on the FAFSA information from his or her legal parents (biological or adoptive) regardless of the parents’ marital status or gender, if those parents live together. Previously, if the parents were unmarried only one parent was included on the FAFSA.


First of all, who is a parent for FAFSA? The FAFSA defines a parent as the biological or adoptive parent of the student. Legal guardians and grandparents are never considered a parent for the FAFSA. If the parents are unmarried the student uses the parent he or she lived with the most in the last 12 months. If he or she did not live with either, the parent who provided the most support in the last 12 months is used. If that parent is married, his or her spouse is included.

In the past, that has left students who live with both their parents unable to list them both on the form if they were unmarried. This change will have a significant impact for LGBT families and how their forms are filed. In addition, there are a significant number of unmarried parents living together that are not LGBT as well.  

- Questions from FAchat Contributors -

General Questions

The Dear Colleague letter has stated that at this time the IRS Data Retrieval Process will not be updated to allow retrieval of tax information for two persons who filed taxes separately. How will administrators configure their systems to recognize when the retrieval tool was used for one parent and a tax transcript will be still need to be collected for the other? Could this situation occur?

Will the screening questions for who is eligible to use the Data Retrieval be changed? Will aid administrators be able to see the answers to these questions?

In light of this effort to better capture parental support, will other questions on the FAFSA be updated to make it more clear what students should include?  “Money received, or paid on your behalf (e.g., bills), not reported elsewhere on this form” has never been clearly defined.

If parents are living together unmarried, would there be any circumstances in which a professional judgment determination would be used to remove one parent from the household size and remove his or her income?

Same-Sex Parents

How common is it for same-sex parents to have both legally adopted the child? If they are living together, but only one is a legal adoptive or biological parent only that person should be listed. Will this be clarified for parents?

What documentation if any, would either or both parents need to provide to prove they are a legal or adoptive parent of the student? Will there be schools who require documentation and others that don’t? Will this be treated consistently?

Does this open the door for religious schools to use the information from the FAFSA to discriminate against a student because of his/her parents’ living situation? Say, for admission, institutional aid, or other?

Will either or both same-sex parents be eligible to apply for a PLUS loan on the student’s behalf?

In the case of adoption, does the age of the student at the time of adoption matter? Example: If one parent in same sex couple is biological parent, and other did not adopt student until student was older than 13. (Age at time of adoption is significant for questions determining who is considered a parent for dependency status.)

Divorced/Separated Parents

This change states that if the biological/adoptive parents of a student are living together regardless of marital status both are included on the FAFSA. As aid administrators have seen frequently, with the current economy many parents are divorcing, but still living together for financial reasons (unable to sell the house). We would like to clarify if the parents are divorced/separated and living together are both still included on the form?  

What if parents are divorced and still living together, but a court has severed all parental rights of one of the parents? Therefore, no longer a legal parent. Still include both?

What questions do you have?

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