The Department of Education has made some changes to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), the form students fill out to determine their eligibility for financial aid. Starting next year the department will,
collect income and other information from a dependent student’s legal parents regardless of the parents’ marital status or gender, if those parents live together.
The 2014-2015… 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.”
This will, according to Education Secretary Arne Duncan, allow the students to apply for aid “in a way that incorporates their unique family dynamic.”
Despite the fact that this change will, in most cases, reduce financial aid (since reporting the income of, say, two mothers will result in a higher family income than reporting that of only one parent) some gay rights organizations praised the move. Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network Director of Public Policy Shawn Gaylord said that his organization has,
long worked to ensure that sexual orientation and gender identity are not used to discriminate against students in our nation’s K-12 schools, whether that student identifies as LGBT, has LGBT friends, or comes from an LGBT family. We’re thrilled by the Department of Education’s decision to allow students filling out the FAFSA to accurately describe the makeup of their family, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
The Department of Education has still not addressed the main problem of FAFSA, notably that it’s very complicated and asks a whole series of irrelevant questions (103 questions total) that it shouldn’t really need, since families have already provided most of the FAFSA information in their federal tax returns.
But well, progressive token gestures are easier than substantive policy fixes.