Outside the financial aid office, important applications and forms are kept in wooden racks, easily accessible to students who are looking for help to pay for college. One application, Free Application for Federal Student Aid, occupied a space in those racks for years. In its place now is a bright blue memo explaining the benefits and process of completing the form electronically.
“The paper applications aren’t even being given out,” Anna Asaro, a SunTrust marketing officer working in the financial aid office said. “(Financial aid representatives) are just pointing students to the web.”
The FAFSA has been available online for more than five years at But this year, the Department of Education gave universities instructions to aggressively promote the Internet version of the form.
“The online version is more efficient and this year is a lot more like the paper,” said Steve Runion, assistant director for the financial aid office. “And there is no mail, which made this a better idea because of all the anthrax scares that were going on.”
The Department of Education conducts annual usability studies on the FAFSA Web site and makes necessary changes to ensure the online process isn’t complicated.
The latest rendition of the Internet FAFSA is decorated in two shades of blue and an eye-catching neon green. Step-by-step directions for every moment of the application process, including what income information students and parents should gather before attempting to complete the form, greet students at first download. A sidebar menu on the site offers answers to common questions.
Michelle Washington, a junior majoring in elementary education, said she and her mother renewed her FAFSA online.
“It was just like the paper,” she said, “except there were no stamps, so I didn’t have to send it off. It only took 10 minutes.”Washington said she was happy that her responses from previous years were already filled in on the online FAFSA, shortening the process for renewal.
Students completing the FAFSA traditionally have something similar when they receive a brief renewal form in the mail.
The Web site also gives students a list of deadlines for the 2002 school year (July 1, 2002 to June 30, 2003). FAFSA on the Web, renewal of FASFA on the Web and applications must be submitted by 8 p.m. on June 30. Any corrections needed to be made must be submitted by 8 p.m. on Aug. 16.
Brandon Johnson, a sophomore majoring in criminology, said he has filed his FAFSA both electronically and by mail and sees only one difference.
“It’s just faster (to apply online),” he said. “You don’t have to work with a stack of papers. That’s the only advantage I see.”
Johnson also said that the Web site allows students to save their applications during the process and finish at a later time, a feature students new to the application process may find helpful.
- Contact Rachel Pleasant at firstname.lastname@example.org