In recent years, the federal government has been making progress towards simplifying and modernizing the FAFSA. Since 2012, the FAFSA application has introduced “skip logic” questions, the IRS Data Retrieval Tool and a new timeline in order to make applying for financial aid easier for students and their parents. Now, The Department of Education has announced it will launch a FAFSA app in April 2018 with the hopes that getting the application on mobile devices will boost numbers. As of now, just three out of five high school seniors complete the FAFSA, and those that miss out on the application are typically low-income students – or those students that financial aid would greatly benefit. While some families may not have access to a PC or laptop, someone or everyone in the family has access to a smartphone. The announcement was made by Betsy DeVos to thousands of financial aid professionals at a conference in Orlando earlier this month. In her statement, according to Newsweek, DeVos said:"Students should be able to complete their FAFSA easily on their phones and in one sitting. They should receive expert, tailored advice about their options. It’s called 'student aid,' after all. You can order food, get a ride home, check your bank account, send money to a friend or, as I’m told, even find your soul mate on your phone. The FAFSA should—at minimum—keep pace with these commonplace activities." In addition to the mobile app, DeVos articulated that she would like to provide a customer service experience that rivals Amazon or Apple Genius, as reported by Inside Higher Ed. With that, the Department is in the process of researching first-class financial institutions to formulate a plan for providing informative, tailored customer service to students and their families.The app will also address cyber security concerns. Just last year, the Department of Education was forced to remove the IRS Data Retrieval Tool due to security concerns. About 100,000 users’ data was exposed to hackers, and while no one’s data was used fraudulently, it required the Department of Education to dismantle the tool from March – October 2017. The new app would take extra measures to ensure a data breach doesn’t occur again. Finally, in the fall of 2018, fafsa.gov will be integrated onto studentaid.ed.gov. Currently, the FAFSA form and all pertinent information relating to student aid live on two different websites. This integration is the first step toward consolidating all of the platforms into one place. According to a press release from the U.S. Department of Education, “FSA [Federal Student Aid] will consolidate all of its customer-facing websites into a single, integrated and user-friendly online platform to provide students, parents and borrowers a consistent and seamless experience from application through repayment.” Again, the FAFSA app will go live in April 2018. Students and their families can expect to be able to use the mobile app for their 2018 – 2019 applications, which will be released on October 1, 2018.
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