Financial aid form axed for continuing students

The University has eliminated the need to file a portion of the current financial aid application for continuing students, in hopes of easing the paperwork burden for continuing students applying for assistance.

Continuing students will no longer need to fill out the CSS Profile, an application component run by the College Board that costs $25 dollars to file once and more to send to multiple schools. The profile includes detailed information on the breakdown of family income and assets for the current year and past year, as well as projections for the upcoming year and information regarding other members of the household, including each dependent’s grade level.

Daniel Small, executive director of financial aid, said the Office of Student Financial Assistance has been evaluating the aid application process for the past few years, and noticed that due in part to the fixed tuition policy, financial aid commitment to continuing students remained nearly the same from year to year – thus removing the need for detailed information to be submitted each year.

“Since federal guidelines required the annual submission of the Federal Aid Application (FAFSA), we still need to have students complete this form for consideration of the various federal programs. Between the historical data on file and the updated FAFSA form, we felt we had the necessary information on file to determine a student’s eligibility for assistance,” Small said in an e-mail.

To apply for financial aid for the 2010-2011 academic year, students must file the FAFSA online and submit the Verification of Family Member Enrollment and the GW Family Grant Application, if applicable, by Apr. 23. Federal tax forms, W-2 statements and verification worksheets will only be required if requested on an individual basis.

Freshman Brendan Dentino said no longer requiring the CSS profile will make it easier to apply for financial aid.

“I remember filling out the CSS and it was a pain, especially because you had to pay for it and the FAFSA was free,” he said.

Small said the Office of Student Financial Assistance does not foresee any disadvantage to the elimination of the CSS profile. Students who think the FAFSA does not provide an accurate picture of their current financial situation will still be able to submit an outline of their circumstances using the Special Condition Form found on the Office’s Web site, as has been available in the past.

The changes to the application process reflect the new ability of financial aid officers to access current and historical information through the University’s Banner Web information system, Small said. In the past, the University has required continuing students to submit the GW financial aid application because the data on student aid was not readily accessible.

The University does reserve the right to request updated information to ensure an understanding of annual changes to income or assets. Additionally, the federal government requires randomly selected students to submit more detailed information, such as federal tax forms, to verify the data reported on the FAFSA profile.

Small said the hope is that the more streamlined application process will make it easier for families to apply for aid.

“We did not want students to self-select themselves out of financial aid consideration because the process appeared too complex. If finances are a concern for students maintaining their enrollment at GW, we want to at least have a dialogue with the student so every option is explored,” he said.

Marie Warren, a graduate student in the Graduate School for Education and Human Development, said she does not think the elimination of the CSS Profile will impact the amount of financial aid students receive.

“The FAFSA pretty much asks the exact same information as the CSS. I don’t think it is going to change the way financial aid is given. That profile seemed like an unnecessary step to me,” she said.

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