The 2014-2015 Free Application for Federal Student Aid will include non-gender-specific options for financial aid applicants to describe their parents’ income and general information, regardless of gender or marital status, the U.S. Department of Education announced Monday.

Students will be able to describe their parents with terms such as “stepparent” rather than the traditional “mother” or “father.” Additionally, FAFSA will now allow students to state that their parents are unmarried but living together.

“All students should be able to apply for federal student aid within a system that incorporates their unique family dynamics,” U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan wrote in a press release. “These changes will allow us to more precisely calculate federal student aid eligibility based on what a student’s whole family is able to contribute and ensure taxpayer dollars are better targeted toward those students who have the most need, as well as provide an inclusive form that reflects the diversity of American families.”

Previously, the FAFSA collected information regarding both of a student’s parents only if the parents were married and living together. According to the press release, the change in policy will ensure that both of a dependent student’s parents contribute to the child’s educational expenses, to the extent of their ability. As a result, federal student aid will more accurately reflect parents’ relationships with their children, rather than with each other.

Nevertheless, the press release said that the Department of Education did not expect the change to affect the majority of applicants. Most FAFSA applicants are independent, dependent with married parents or dependent with unmarried parents who do not live together. Those who are affected, however, will most likely see a decrease in need-based federal student aid.

The change will not impact filing for children of divorced parents. The FAFSA remains solely interested in the income information of the parent with which the child resides the greater portion of 12 months.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *