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Turning over a new leaf

In order to assist students in their search for affordable college, the White House recently released a new website database for such information and a proposal to shorten FAFSA. ORACLE FILE PHOTO/ADAM MATHIEU

Nearly every college-bound student understands the hassle of researching unbiased information on potential colleges, and anyone in need of financial aid knows what it feels like to bother mom or dad to input tax information for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). 

After two years without success in making a grading scale by which colleges would be ranked against one another and funded accordingly, President Barack Obama has decided to approach college ranking in a drastically different way.

In the original plan, the approximately 7,000 institutions of higher education in the U.S. would be given a rank by the government in order to “publicly shame” schools with lower ratings and high graduate debt or poor earning potential, according to The New York Times.

However, rather than going through with such a system, the White House unveiled a website Saturday that endeavors to provide unbiased, balanced information about each institution. The site compiles information about “annual costs, graduation rates and salaries after graduation,” per the Times article. 

On the site, which is operated by the Department of Education, users can search for institutions based on degree programs, location and size, among other factors. According to White House officials, ScholarMatch, StartClass and College Abacus — popular college search tools — have begun using data from the site to better their own databases.

In his weekly address, Obama said users will “be able to see how much each school’s graduates earn, how much debt they graduate with and what percentage of a school’s students can pay back their loan.”

The website is not the only effort the White House has made in recent weeks to aid current and potential students. The 153-question FAFSA is under critical review, as it has arguably made applying for financial aid more difficult rather than simpler.

The Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) and the National Economic Council (NEC) have released a report that expresses the need to simplify the process of applying for federal student aid, according to the White House website.

With Obama’s efforts, the CEA and the NEC have begun planning for a shorter FAFSA that will shorten the completion time significantly. According to the White House website, “some students and parents will be able to electronically retrieve their tax information from the (IRS) and transfer it into the online FAFSA.”

In addition to cutting down on time, the changes will also make the application more accessible to students by removing “29 of the most difficult FAFSA questions regarding savings and income adjustments that are not available on tax returns,” according to the White House website.

Ultimately, the changes to the application are proposed to make it “simple to complete, requiring only easily obtainable personal information, and results in verifiable eligibility determinations.”