The U.S Department of Education announced recently that modifications will be made to the 2014-15 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA Form) to broaden the information collected on parents. According to the Department of Education’s announcement:
The 2014-2015 Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, will provide a new option for dependent applicants to describe their parents’ marital status as “unmarried and both parents living together.” Additionally, where appropriate, the new FAFSA form will also use terms like “Parent 1 (father/mother/stepparent)” and “Parent 2 (father/mother/stepparent)” instead of gender-specific terms like “mother” and “father.”
Currently the form only considers parents who are married and of the opposite gender when calculating the need an applicant needs. In it’s current state this hurts children of same sex or unmarried parents for several reasons:
1. It can delay their form if they describe their family ‘inaccurately’
2. In some cases students will only list one parent on their form to avoid confusion, misrepresentation, or having to label one parent as ‘mother’ and one as ‘father’.
3.Limiting familial and parental descriptions to different-sex and married language terms misrepresents the applicant’s family.
4. Applicants in these situations might often not receive the financial assistance they are entitled to.
For the above reasons some applicants may shy away from applying for this type of aid using the current form, thus creating an inequality of financial aid in favor of those with traditional family types. The proposed changes level the playing field, and acknowledge that we are a culture made of my many forms of family. Now the remaining question is, when will the FASFA get around to acknowledging the varietyof genders an applicant might identify as?
Written By Georgianna Dolan-Reilly, LMSW
SJS Staff Writer