Working Together to Remove Barriers

One of the Department’s central goals is to foster equitable education opportunities for all students and to eliminate barriers to those opportunities. What follows is an account of an important resolution agreement reached between our Office for Civil Rights (OCR) and the University of Phoenix to ensure equal access for students with disabilities to online education.

MK Wilkinson has severe presbyopia and dyslexia – vision and visual processing disorders that prevent her from reading in the conventional manner. She describes it this way: “My eyes hit 50 years old when I was 10 years old; now my eyes are like those of someone who is over 120 years of age.” This means that she needs assistive technology to read text and to communicate with other students online.

In 2010, MK enrolled at the University of Phoenix, the nation’s largest online education provider. She uses a screen reader, which reads text out loud as it appears on a screen. At first, the materials in MK’s online classes at the university were accessible to her.

Then, in 2014, MK ran into a virtual wall: the university had switched to “the New Classroom,” parts of which she could not access. “When they switched to the New Classroom format,” MK explained, “my instructors literally put up an image with text in it; no screen reader can read text embedded into a picture, so I couldn’t work with it.”

MK tried multiple times to resolve these barriers within the university system, without success. In 2014, MK filed a civil rights complaint asserting that the university’s polices violated Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. OCR’s policy, which is grounded in Section 504 regulations, states that students who are blind or have low vision “must be afforded the opportunity to acquire the same information, engage in the same interactions, and enjoy the same services as sighted students.”

OCR opened an investigation and surveyed approximately 350 current and former University of Phoenix students who use assistive technology and also interviewed many of them. Many students praised the university DSO counselors but also stated they could not fully access the New Classroom environment without assistance from a nondisabled person. The Department’s Office of the Chief Information Officer assisted OCR by using web conferencing technology to demonstrate visually and audibly to university officials just how those who use screen readers experienced barriers in the New Classroom.

In June 2015, the University of Phoenix entered into a voluntary resolution agreement with the Department, under which the university committed, among other things, to create a plan to ensure that its new online technology is accessible, remove barriers to access for existing content, and convert inaccessible documents to accessible documents within 24 hours of receiving a request. The university also agreed to offer MK and other former students with disabilities who experienced technological barriers the opportunity to have their prior grades reevaluated or to repeat or take new courses free of charge in an accessible online environment.

The university views OCR’s investigation in a positive light: “We see our work with OCR and the Department of Education as one of collaboration. We are grateful for the feedback from OCR because it helps us better serve our students with disabilities,” said Dr. Meredith Curley, University Provost.

MK is pleased with the outcome and hopes that the impact of her case is widespread. “My hope – and what I believe it’s going to do – is to place people with limitations on an even playing field with those without them. The independence and self-respect that you get if you can sit down to a computer and do your assignment by yourself is incredible. We all want to have the opportunity to work at the same pace and level as everyone else.”

Robert Kim, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Strategic Operations and Outreach, Office for Civil Rights.

ED Games Day Comes to Washington, D.C.

In recent years, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) has increased its commitment to exploring the potential of learning games and researching their effectiveness, highlighted by initiatives such as ED Games Week, the White House Education Game Jam, the Games for Learning Summit at Games for Change, and a mini-conference focused on games for learning at E3.

Keeping the momentum going, on December 9, 2015, representatives from the Department of Education and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) collaboratively organized a day of events to build capacity for and showcase learning games. In all, 45 game developers participated, 30 of whom were recipients of awards from the Small Business Innovation Research programs at the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences and five other federal agencies.

Games for Assessment meeting participants.

Games for Assessment meeting participants.

Games For Assessment Working Meeting

In the morning, more than 20 members of the game-based learning community gathered at the White House to focus on the potential of games for assessment. Participants discussed the state of the field and opportunities for researching and developing new game-based assessment models and engines that can support teachers by providing real-time progress reports and insights on student mastery of content.

Tom Kalil, Deputy Director for Technology and Innovation at OTSP, discussed the potential of games to transform traditional methods of testing. Roberto Rodriguez, the Deputy Assistant to the President for Education, said the Every Student Succeeds Act calls for new types of assessment, many of which could be accomplished with well designed game-based assessments, and highlighted the need for more rigorous research in the area of games for learning and assessment. And Megan Smith, U.S. Chief Technology Officer, talked about the need to create more opportunities for girls and students of all backgrounds to code and develop games for learning.

Games for Learning Stakeholder Meeting

In the afternoon, the group gathered for a series of short briefings from stakeholders in the educational technology games space. A few of the presenting organizations included BrainPOP, EdSurge, Games for Change, PBS Learning Media, 1776, and the Consortium of School Networking. The goal was to increase collaboration and strengthen approaches for the broader creation, dissemination, and use of quality games in classrooms and beyond.

ED Games Expo attendees play games while interacting with the developers. (Photo credit: Emily Stack)

ED Games Expo attendees play games while interacting with the developers. (Photo credit: Emily Stack)

ED Games Expo 2015

In the evening, the ED Games Expo provided a forum for all 45 developers to demo their games. More than 200 individuals attended, met face-to-face with the developers, and played games that covered a range of topics in areas such as STEM, history, and coding. The free event was co-sponsored by 1776 and the Entertainment Software Association. The event was highlighted by a visit from the Small Business Administration’s Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet, who spent time chatting with several developers about their learning games.

A few examples of SBIR games demoed at the Expo included:

  • Happy Atoms, where students learn about chemistry by using modernized ball and stick models with an augmented reality interface.
  • Eco, where students collaboratively build a virtual world to learn about ecosystems.
  • Kiko’s Thinking Time, where young children solve challenging tasks to strengthen cognitive skills related to executive functioning and reasoning.

For videos of all of the SBIR games for learning that demoed at the Expo (and more), see this playlist.

ED is committed to growing the ecosystem for high-quality learning games, researching their effectiveness, and assisting developers in building games that reflect effective pedagogy and engaging game mechanics to expand and improve in-and-out of classroom learning opportunities for students.

Follow us on Twitter at @IESResearch and @OfficeofEdTech for the latest.

Edward Metz is the Program Manager for the Small Business Innovation Research program at the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences.

Joseph South is the Acting Director of Office of Educational Technology at the U.S. Department of Education.

James Collins is the Internal Liaison of Office of Educational Technology at the U.S. Department of Education.

Erik Martin is an intern at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

Opportunity for America Tour Announced

jk_kids

Acting Secretary John King has announced his Opportunity Across America tour!

He’ll meet with students, teachers, principals, parents and community leaders in four states and Washington, D.C.

The tour will start in El Paso, Texas, on Thursday, and continue with visits to Houston, Texas; Washington, D.C.; Orlando, Florida; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and Wilmington, Delaware.

King will highlight the good work going on in schools and communities across the country and hear stories, experiences and insights about what’s working and where there is more work to be done.

As we told you earlier this year, King has resolved in 2016 to promote equity and excellence at every level of education to ensure that every child has the opportunity to succeed; support and lift up the teaching profession; and continue the Department’s focus on returning America to the top of the rankings in college completion by ensuring more students earn an affordable degree with real value.

King will visit the following schools during the tour:

  • Bowie High School, El Paso, Texas
  • Sharpstown High School, Houston, Texas
  • Valencia Community College, Orlando, Florida
  • School of the Future, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Don’t forget to follow @JohnKingatED on Twitter and sign up for email updates!

Join Us for President Obama’s Final State of the Union

sotu

President Obama will deliver his final State of the Union this evening.

When the President took office seven years ago, our country was involved in two wars and facing the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. With his leadership and the determination of the American people, our country has made extraordinary progress.

In his last State of the Union, the President will lay out the ways that we, as the American people, can once again come together in pursuit of a country worthy of generations to come.

In each year since 2009, the President’s State of the Union addresses have bookmarked pivotal moments in the story of our nation: from expanding universal, affordable health care to securing the most ambitious global agreement ever to combat climate change.

Check out each speech — complete with videos, graphics, and stories from the staffers behind the policies.

Have thoughts on remarks? Share your thoughts and reactions with the White House right in the speech. Some submissions may be highlighted by the White House.

You can also RSVP on Facebook and follow @WhiteHouse, @JohnKingatED and #SOTU on Twitter.

Get more info at whitehouse.gov/sotu.

Meet all the inspiring people who will be joining the First Lady. Read their stories and watch them receive their invitations.

Miles and miles apart? It’s easy for you and your child to fill out the FAFSA!

Mother and daughter hugging near car

If your child is a dependent student and is applying for federal student aid, youthe parent(s)may need to provide some of your information on and sign the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®). Now, it’s easier than ever for you and your child to complete the FAFSA…even if you’re not in the same place. Help is also available for every question, just look for the “Help and Hints” box on the right side of each screen.


Step 1: You and your child must each create an FSA ID

The first step to filling out the FAFSA is for you and your child to each create your own FSA ID, a username and password. The FSA ID replaces the Federal Student Aid PIN and is required to sign the FAFSA electronically.

IMPORTANT TIP #1: Do not create an FSA ID for your child. Let your child create his/her own. Otherwise, your child could experience problems or delays with his or her financial aid.


Step 2: Start the FAFSA

You or your child can start a new FAFSA. If your child starts the application, he or she should enter his or her FSA ID on the left side of the log-in page. But, if you start the application, select “Enter the student’s information” on the right. Be sure to follow the instructions on each screen to proceed.

IMPORTANT TIP #2: If the parent is starting the FAFSA, DO NOT enter your child’s FSA ID or your FSA ID on this page. Instead, click “Enter the student’s information.”

FAFSA Login Screen

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Step 3: Create a Save Key

After selecting which FAFSA you’d like to start, you’ll be given the option to create what’s called a “Save Key.” It’s a temporary password that lets you save an incomplete FAFSA, pass the FAFSA back and forth with your child, and return to the application later to add information. Think of it as your key to accessing the draft FAFSA.

Create Save Key Page

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IMPORTANT TIP #3: Once you create your Save Key, make a note of it. Unlike the FSA ID, you and your child can share the Save Key.

So, let’s say your child is away at school and starts his or her FAFSA. He or she can click the “SAVE” button at the bottom of the page and exit. You can then log in at FAFSA.gov using your child’s identifiers and the save key, and pick up where he or she left off!

FAFSA.gov Homepage

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Enter student's info to login to the FAFSA

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FAFSA continue application page

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From here, you can enter your financial information or any other information that’s missing from your child’s FAFSA.


Step 4: Sign and submit the FAFSA

After you and your child have filled out all the necessary information, you both need to sign the FAFSA. If you’re not in the same location, one of you can sign by navigating to the “Sign & Submit” section, entering your username and password (your FSA ID) clicking the “SIGN” button, saving, then closing the application. The other person can then log in at fafsa.gov using the Save Key, navigate to the “Sign & Submit” section, and sign the application using his or her FSA ID.

Make sure the parent who is signing with the FSA ID checks whether he/she is listed on the FAFSA as Parent 1 or Parent 2 and checks the appropriate box.

IMPORTANT TIP #4:  You and your child should enter your own FSA ID in the correct spot—student above and parent below.

Student signature page

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Parent signature page

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IMPORTANT TIP #5:  If you are a parent without a Social Security number, you will not be able to create an FSA ID and will not be able to sign the FAFSA electronically. But, your child can submit the FAFSA without a parent signature, then print a paper signature page for you to sign and return by mail.

Once you and your child have signed the FAFSA, click the blue “SUBMIT MY FAFSA NOW” button at the bottom of the page. Your child’s FAFSA is not submitted until you see the confirmation page. It’s a good idea to print the confirmation page for your records. If your child provided an e-mail address, he or she will receive a copy of the confirmation page by e-mail.

FAFSA confirmation page

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Next Steps

Once your child’s FAFSA is submitted, it will take three to five days to process. Information on your child’s FAFSA will be made available to the financial aid offices of the schools listed. The school or schools will use the information to determine what aid your child may be eligible to receive.

IMPORTANT TIP #6:  On the confirmation page, you’ll see an Expected Family Contribution (EFC). Please note, the EFC is not the amount of money your family will have to pay for college or the amount of federal student aid you will receive. It is a number used by your school to calculate how much financial aid you are eligible to receive.

The confirmation page also provides some financial aid estimates. Please keep in mind that these are true estimates. You may qualify for different amounts or additional types of aid. In order to find out the exact amount and types of aid you’re eligible to receive, you’ll need to wait to receive an aid award from each school you listed.


Photo by Getty Images.

April Jordan is a senior communications specialist at Federal Student Aid.

Parents: Tips to Help Your Child Complete the 2016–17 FAFSA

2016-17 FAFSA Tips for Parents
If you’re a parent of a college-bound child, the financial aid process can seem a bit overwhelming. Who’s considered the parent? Who do you include in household size? How do assets and tax filing fit into the process? Does this have to be done every year? Here are some common questions that parents have when helping their children prepare for and pay for college or career school:

Does my child need to provide my information on the FAFSA?

Your child’s dependency status determines whose information must be reported on the FAFSA. Even if your child lives on his own, files his own taxes, and supports himself, he may still be considered a dependent student for federal student aid purposes. If your child was born on or after January 1, 1993, then he or she is most likely considered a dependent student and will need to include your information on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®).

Why does my child need to provide my information on the FAFSA?

Our dependency guidelines are determined by Congress and are different from those of the IRS. If your child is considered a dependent student, it doesn’t mean you, the parent(s), are required to pay anything toward your child’s education; this is just a way of looking at everyone in a consistent manner.

Which parent’s information should I include when completing the FAFSA?

If your child needs to report parent information, here are some guidelines to help.

Who's My Parent When I Fill Out My FAFSA? Graphic

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Who’s considered part of the household?

When completing your child’s FAFSA, your household size should include parents, any dependent student(s), and any other child who lives at home and receives more than half of their support from you. Also include any people who are not your children but who live with you and for whom you provide more than half of their support.

Do we need to wait to apply until I file my income taxes?

You do not need to wait until you file your federal tax return. Deadlines in some states are before the tax filing deadline so you’ll want to ensure your child fills out his or her FAFSA as soon as possible to maximize financial aid. If you haven’t filed your taxes by the time your child completes the FAFSA, you can estimate amounts based on the previous year if nothing has drastically changed. After you file your taxes, you’ll need to log back in to the FAFSA and correct any estimated information. If you’ve already filed your taxes, you can use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool to automatically pull in your tax information directly from the IRS into the FAFSA. The IRS Data Retrieval Tool will be available February 7, 2016.

Do I need to do this every year?

Yes, you and your child need to complete the FAFSA each year in order for your child to be considered for federal student aid. The good news is that each subsequent year you can use the Renewal Application option so you only have to update information that has changed from the previous year!

What else do I need to know before I begin?

You and your child will each need to get an FSA ID, which is made up of a username and password. It is used to confirm your identity when accessing your financial aid information and to electronically sign the FAFSA. You can save time by getting your FSA IDs prior to starting the FAFSA.

Certain information and documents are necessary to complete the FAFSA and it’s good to have them handy before you begin. Here’s a checklist to help you get ready.

Susan Thares is the Digital Engagement Lead at the Department of Education’s Office of Federal Student Aid.

Photo by Getty Images.

Why Students and Parents Need to Create Their Own FSA IDs


Each year, more than 18 million people submit a FAFSA, and the U.S. Department of Education provides more than $150 billion dollars in federal student aid. To protect the integrity of this important financial system and the private data of all of the students, parents and borrowers within it, it’s essential that only the FSA ID owner create and use their account.


In order to fill out and submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®), you now need an FSA ID, made up of a username and password that you create.

Although the FAFSA is considered your application, one of your parents will have to provide some information on the FAFSA and sign it, if you are considered a dependent student. Any parent, who wants to electronically sign the FAFSA, will need his or her own FSA ID.

To avoid problems with your financial aid down the road, you (and your parent, if that applies) should create your own FSA ID. Don’t let anyone—not your teacher, your financial aid counselor, your mom or dad, your best friend, or your second and third cousins—create your FSA ID for you. And you should not create one for your parent or anyone else.

For starters, it’s against the rules. The FSA ID has the same legal status as a written signature, so you should treat it like such. You’re not supposed to let someone else sign your name on a tax form or a job application. Well, the same goes for your FAFSA.

Also, one of the primary reasons people have issues with their FSA ID and need to call our contact center for help is because someone else created their FSA ID. If you don’t make your own FSA ID you are less likely to know or remember your username and password. And if you get locked out or need a reminder of your username or password, you are less likely to know the answers to your challenge questions or have access to the e-mail address associated with your account.

Don’t miss an important deadline because someone else created your FSA ID, and you can’t reset your password!

In addition to signing the FAFSA, you can use your FSA ID to do things like

  • import your tax information into your FAFSA from the Internal Revenue Service,
  • view and print an online copy of your Student Aid Report (SAR), and
  • sign your master promissory note.

Creating an FSA ID is simple and only takes a few minutes. To save time when you and your parent are filling out the FAFSA, create your own FSA ID before you begin the application. For more information, visit StudentAid.gov/fsaid.

Meet John King, Acting Secretary of Education

meetjohnking

Every New Year offers the chance for each of us to set new personal goals to make us healthier, happier, or more productive. In 2016, I hope you’ll join me as I recommit myself to ensuring that every child in America—regardless of background or circumstance—has access to an excellent education.

I’m honored and humbled by the opportunity President Obama has given me to build on the many accomplishments he and my friend Arne Duncan have achieved over the past seven years.

Education always has been a focal point in my life—both my parents were New York City public school educators. My father was a teacher and a principal. My mother was a teacher and guidance counselor. When I was 8, my mother passed away.  I then lived with my father who was suffering from undiagnosed Alzheimer’s disease and passed away when I was 12.

After that, I moved around between family members and schools. Home was an unpredictable and often scary place. But school, and the remarkable teachers who believed in my potential, offered me a safe haven. Because of them, I went on to become a high school social studies teacher, a middle school principal, and a state education commissioner—and now I have the tremendous privilege to serve you in this new role.

Watch a short video introduction from John King (Español)

Over the past seven years, we’ve made a lot of progress. More students than ever are being taught to college- and career-ready standards; dropout rates are at historic lows and graduation rates at all-time highs; and high quality preschool and higher education are within reach for more families.

But there is a lot more work to do. Our efforts in 2016 must be measured by the progress we make toward educational opportunity for all—so that no child’s fate is left to luck, no student’s destiny defined by circumstances.

In the weeks to come, I’ll be traveling across the country to visit with folks like you—students, parents, teachers, principals and community leaders—to highlight what’s working and hear about the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.

I’ll also be asking you to help us accelerate progress in more classrooms.

In the meantime, please follow me on Twitter @JohnKingatED and ask me a question anytime using #AskJohnKing. Here’s wishing you a wonderful New Year!

11 Common FAFSA Mistakes

11 Common FAFSA Mistakes

The 2016–17 FAFSA® is now available! The online FAFSA has gotten a lot easier over the last few years. Thanks to improvements like skip logic, where you only see questions that are applicable to you; and the IRS Data Retrieval Tool, which allows you to import your tax information from the IRS directly into the FAFSA application, the FAFSA takes less than 30 minutes to complete. Just make sure to take your time so you don’t make one of these mistakes:

1. Not Completing the FAFSA®

I hear all kinds of reasons: “The FAFSA is too hard,” “It takes too long to complete,” I never qualify anyway, so why does it matter?” It does matter. By not completing the FAFSA, you are missing the opportunity to qualify for what could be thousands of dollars to help you pay for college. The FAFSA takes little time to complete, and there is help provided throughout the application. Oh, and contrary to popular belief, there is no income cut-off when it comes to federal student aid.

2. Not Using the Correct Website

The official FAFSA website is fafsa.gov. That’s .gov! You never have to pay to complete the FAFSA. If you’re asked for credit card information, you’re not on the official government site.

3. Not Getting an FSA ID Ahead of Time

We’ve made a big change to the FAFSA process this year in order to increase security. Students and parents can no longer use a Federal Student Aid PIN to log in and sign the FAFSA online. You must, instead, use the new FSA IDa username and password. Once you register for an FSA ID, you may need to wait up to three days before you can use it to sign your FAFSA. If you don’t want your FAFSA to be delayed, register for an FSA ID now. If you’re a dependent student, your parent will need to create an FSA ID too.

The key to making the FAFSA simple is being prepared. The process will go much smoother if you register for an FSA ID and gather everything you need to complete the FAFSA before you start the application.

4. Waiting to Fill Out The FAFSA Until After You File Taxes

Because some financial aid is awarded on a first-come, first-served basis, it’s important to fill out the FAFSA early. However, the 2016–17 FAFSA is available beginning January 1, 2016, well before most people have their 2015 taxes filed. This, however, shouldn’t stop you from getting the FAFSA submitted. If your income from 2014 is similar to your income from 2015, you can use your 2014 taxes to estimate the financial information on the FAFSA and get it submitted now. You can then update the FAFSA after you file 2015 taxes, preferably using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool.

5. Not Filing by the Deadline

States, schools, and the federal government each have their own FAFSA deadlines. To maximize the amount of your financial aid, you should fill out your FAFSA (and any other financial aid applications that may be required by your state or school), by the earliest of these three deadlines, if not sooner!

6. Not Reading Definitions Carefully

When it comes to completing the FAFSA, you want to read each definition and question carefully. Too many students see delays in their financial aid for simple mistakes that could have been easily avoided.

Don’t rush through these questions:

  • Your Number of Family Members (Household size): The FAFSA has a specific definition of how your or your parents’ household size should be determined. Read the instructions carefully. Many students incorrectly report this number.
  • Legal Guardianship: One question on the FAFSA asks: “As determined by a court in your state of legal residence, are you or were you in legal guardianship?” Many students incorrectly answer “yes” here. For this question, the definition of legal guardianship does not include your parents, even if they were appointed by a court to be your guardian. You are also not considered a legal guardian of yourself.

7. Inputting Incorrect Information

Here are some examples of common errors we see on the FAFSA:

  • Confusing Parent and Student Information: I know there are many parents out there who fill out the FAFSA for their child, but remember, the FAFSA is the student’s application. When the FAFSA says “you” or “your”, it’s referring to the student, so make sure to enter the student’s information. If we are asking for parent information, we will specify that in the question.
  • Entering the Wrong Name (Yes, I’m serious): You wouldn’t believe how many people have issues with their FAFSA because they entered an incorrect name on the application. It doesn’t matter if you’re Madonna, or Drake, or whatever Snoop Lion is calling himself these days. You must enter your full name as it appears on official government documents. No nicknames.
  • Entering the Wrong Social Security Number (SSN): When we process FAFSAs, we cross check your social security number with the Social Security Administration. To avoid delays in processing your application, triple check that you have entered the correct SSN. If you meet our basic eligibility criteria, but you or your parents don’t have a SSN, follow these instructions.
  • Amount of Your Income Tax: Income tax is not the same as income. It is the amount of tax that you (and if married, your spouse) paid on your income earned from work. Your income tax amount should not be the same as your adjusted gross income (AGI). Where you find the amount of your income tax depends on which IRS form you filed.

Tip: If you use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool, this number will be pulled for you, directly from your income tax return.

8. Not Reporting Parent Information

Even if you fully support yourself, pay your own bills, and file your own taxes, you may still be considered a dependent student for federal student aid purposes, and therefore, you’ll need to provide parent information on your FAFSA. Dependency guidelines for the FAFSA are determined by Congress and are different from those of the IRS. Find out whether or not you need to provide parent information by answering these questions.

Bonus: Who is my parent when I fill out the FAFSA?

Who's My Parent When I Fill Out My FAFSA? Graphic

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9. Listing only one college

Two-thirds of freshmen FAFSA applicants list only one college on their applications. Do not make this mistake! Colleges can’t see the other schools you’ve added, so you should add ANY college you are considering to your FAFSA, even if you aren’t sure whether you’ll apply or be accepted. It doesn’t hurt your application to add more schools. If you’re applying to more than 10 schools, follow these steps.

10. Not Using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool

For many, the most difficult part about filling out the FAFSA is entering in the financial information. But now, thanks to a partnership with the IRS, students and parents who are eligible can automatically transfer the necessary tax info into the FAFSA using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool. This year, the tool will launch on February 7, 2016. In most cases, your information will be available from the IRS two weeks after you file. It’s also one of the best ways to prevent errors on your FAFSA and avoid any processing delays.

Tip: If you used income estimates to file your FAFSA early, you can use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool to update your FAFSA shortly after after you file your 2015 taxes.

11. Not Signing the FAFSA

So many students answer every single question that is asked, but fail to actually sign the FAFSA with their FSA ID and submit it. This happens for many reasons, maybe they forgot their FSA ID, or their parent isn’t with them to sign with the parent FSA ID, so the FAFSA is left incomplete. Don’t let this happen to you. If you don’t have or don’t know your FSA ID, register for one. If you would like confirmation that your FAFSA has been submitted, you can check your status immediately after you submit your FAFSA online.

Nicole Callahan is a Digital Engagement Strategist at Federal Student Aid.

7 Steps to Filling Out the FAFSA

7 Steps to Filling Out the FAFSA

Need to fill out the FAFSA® but don’t know where to start? I’m here to help. You’ve already done the hard part and gathered all of the necessary information, so now it’s time to complete the FAFSA. Let me walk you through it step by step:

IMPORTANT: On May 10, 2015, we changed the way you log in to fafsa.gov. You now must use an FSA ID to log in and sign the FAFSA online. You can no longer use a PIN. If you are required to provide parent information on the FAFSA, your parent must register for an FSA ID too. Create your FSA ID at  StudentAid.gov/fsaid

1. Go to fafsa.gov

One thing you don’t need in order to fill out the FAFSA? Money! Remember, the FAFSA is FREE when you use the official .gov site: fafsa.gov.

2. Log in using your FSA ID

If you completed a FAFSA last year: Click “Login” and enter your FSA ID. If you haven’t transitioned your PIN to an FSA ID, you can do so here. If possible, make sure you link your PIN during the FSA ID registration process. Otherwise, you will need to wait 1-3 days before you can use your FSA ID to sign and submit your renewal FAFSA.

If this is your first time completing the FAFSA: Click “Start a new FAFSA” and enter your FSA ID. If you haven’t created an FSA ID yet, you can do that here. You will be able to use your FSA ID to sign and submit your new FAFSA right away.

If you are a parent: Click “login” and “Enter the student’s information”.

FAFSA Login Screen

3. Choose which FAFSA you’d like to complete

The new FAFSA that becomes available on January 1, 2016, is the 2016–17 FAFSA. You should complete the 2016–17 FAFSA if you will be attending college between July 1, 2016 and June 30, 2017. Remember, the FAFSA is not a one-time thing. You must complete your FAFSA each school year.

Note: The 2015–16 FAFSA is also available if you will be attending college between July 1, 2015 and June 30, 2016, and you haven’t applied for financial aid yet.

4. Enter your personal information*

This is information like your name, date of birth, etc. If you have completed the FAFSA in the past, a lot of your personal information will be pre-populated to save you time. Make sure you enter your personal information exactly as it appears on official government documents. (That’s right, no nicknames.)

5. Enter your financial information*

All of it. You should use income records for the tax year prior to the academic yearfor which you are applying. For example, if you are filling out the 2016–17 FAFSA, you will need to use 2015 tax information. If you or your parent(s) haven’t filed your 2015 taxes yet, which at this point, most people haven’t, you can always estimate the amounts using your 2014 tax return; just make sure to update your FAFSA once you file your 2015 taxes. Once you file your taxes, you may be able to automatically import your tax information into the FAFSA using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool. It makes completing the FAFSA super easy!

6. Choose up to 10 schools

Two-thirds of freshmen FAFSA applicants list only one college on their applications. Don’t make this mistake! Make sure you add any school you plan to attend, even if you haven’t applied or been accepted yet. You can add up to 10 schools to your FAFSA at a time. We will send the necessary information over to the schools you listed so they can calculate the amount of financial aid you are eligible to receive.  If you’re applying to more than 10 schools, this is what you do.

7. Sign the document with your FSA ID*

Your FSA ID serves as your electronic signature, or e-signature. You’ll use it to electronically sign and submit your FAFSA. If you don’t have an FSA ID, you’ll need to get one. If you’re considered a dependent student, at least one of your parents or your legal guardian will need an FSA ID as well. You will use your FSA ID to renew/correct your FAFSA each school year, so keep it in a safe place. If you have forgotten your FSA ID, you can retrieve it. If you have siblings, your parent can use the same FSA ID to sign FAFSAs for all his or her children.

*If you are considered a dependent student, your parent(s) will also need to do this.

I’m finished. What’s next?

That’s it. You’ve filled it out. I told you it wasn’t so bad. With the hard part over, check out this page to learn what you should do next.

Nicole Callahan is a Digital Engagement Strategist at Federal Student Aid.

7 Things You Need Before You Fill Out the FAFSA

If you need financial aid to help you pay for college, you must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®). The 2016–17 FAFSA is available on January 1, 2016, at 12 a.m. Central Time. You should fill it out (for FREE) on the official government site, fafsa.gov.

 

To speed up the FAFSA process, get prepared early. Here is what you’ll need to fill out the FAFSA:

1. Your FSA ID*

On May 15, 2015, we changed the way you log into the FAFSA. You now need an FSA ID, instead of a PIN, to log in and sign your FAFSA online.

Anyone who plans to fill out the 2016–17 FAFSA should create an FSA ID as soon as possible. In some situations, you may need to wait up to 3 days to use your FSA ID after registering. If you want to avoid FAFSA delays, register for an FSA ID now.

If you are required to provide parent information on your FAFSA, your parent will need to register for an FSA ID too. Because your FSA ID is equivalent to your signature, parents and students each need to create their own FSA IDs using separate e-mail addresses. Parents should not create an FSA ID for their child and vice versa.

2. Your Social Security number*

You can find the number on your social security card. If you don’t have access to it, and don’t know where it is, ask your parent or legal guardian or get a new or replacement social security card from the Social Security Administration. If you are not a U.S. citizen, but meet Federal Student Aid’s basic eligibility requirements, you’ll need your Alien Registration Number.

3. Your driver’s license number

If you don’t have a driver’s license, then don’t worry about this step.

4. Your tax records*

Use income records for the tax year prior to the academic year for which you are applying: so if you are filling out the 2016–17 FAFSA, you will need 2015 tax information. If you haven’t filed your taxes yet, don’t worry! You can still fill out the FAFSA now. Just estimate the amounts using your 2014 tax return and make sure to update your FAFSA once you file your 2015 taxes. After you file, you may be able to import your tax information electronically into the FAFSA using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool.

5. Records of your untaxed income*

This includes variables that may or may not apply to you, like child support received, interest income and veterans non-education benefits. Parents can find specific details here. Students can find details here.

6. Records of all your assets (money)*

This includes savings and checking account balances, as well as investments like stocks and bonds and real estate.

7. List of the school(s) you are interested in attending

Two-thirds of freshmen FAFSA applicants list only one college on their applications. Don’t make this mistake! Be sure to list any school you’re considering, even if you haven’t applied or been accepted yet. The schools you list on your FAFSA will automatically receive your FAFSA results electronically. They will use your FAFSA information to determine the types and amounts of financial aid you may receive. If you add a school to your FAFSA and decide not to apply, that’s OK. The school likely won’t award you aid until you’ve been accepted anyway. You can list up to 10 schools on your FAFSA. If you’re applying to more than 10 schools, you can add more later.

TIP:  To be considered for state aid, several states require you to list schools in a particular order (for instance, you might need to list a state school first). Find out whether your state has a requirement for the order in which you list schools on your FAFSA.

*If you’re a dependent student, you will need this information for your parent(s) as well.

Nicole Callahan is a Digital Engagement Strategist at Federal Student Aid.

Student Leaders Impacted by Gun Violence Seek to Make a Positive Change

studentvoices

Recently, eight students who have been affected by gun violence came to ED to share their experiences with Secretary Duncan and his staff.,They were from all across the country and had experienced gun violence in different ways. There wasn’t a dry eye in the room as each shared their ordeals with either a mass shooting, personal injury as a result of an attack, or perpetual gun violence in their communities. Their recommendations on how to mitigate gun violence varied from mental health supports and job opportunities, to after school supports and youth engagement.

Kristina Anderson, survivor of the Virginia Tech shooting in 2007, urged an increased investment in mental health clinics in high schools and college, along with campaigns to de stigmatize mental health so youth feel comfortable getting the support they need. Other youth talked about the need for high-quality afterschool programs. Da’lonte Moore, a middle school student from Baltimore, said students need opportunities, internships and positive role models to expose youth to real job training.

When pressed further on the issue by Michael Smith, Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director of Cabinet Affairs for My Brother’s Keeper, one student said lack of transportation is another challenge, because students don’t have a reliable way to get to and from the programs. Trevon Simmons, a student at Luke C Moore Alternative High School, shared that in his community, a police station replaced the local Boys and Girls Club after dwindling enrollment because he and his peers couldn’t get their safely.

The need for youth to be active participants in their schools and communities was a constant theme throughout the meeting. The youth made it clear they wanted to be a voice in their schools and communities and to be a more engaged partner in shaping them to be safe and supportive places. One suggested way to accomplish this is for principals, school district superintendents and mayors to create student advisory councils where a broad representation of that population is included to improve outcomes for youth.

These youth have taken the pain and struggle that no human being should have to endure and turned it into a positive force to address gun violence at its root causes. Secretary Duncan’s first words to the students were “We have failed you as adults. We must not be complacent with this horrific status quo. It is our job as adult allies to support youth leaders in this endeavor.”

Sessions like this are a positive step in the right direction.

This session was a part of the ongoing “Student Voices” series at the Department through which students engage with senior staff members to help develop recommendations on current and future education programs and policies.

Samuel Ryan is a Special Assistant and Youth Liaison in the Office of Communications and Outreach at the U.S. Department of Education.