White House unveils college scorecard, changes to FAFSA

The Obama administration unveiled tools over the weekend designed to help college students make better choices when applying to college, and allowing them to apply for financial aid earlier.

The new College Scorecard allows parents and students to compare colleges in an online database featuring information on colleges’ annual costs, graduation rates and salaries after graduation.

The scorecard replaces President Barack Obama’s original idea to rank the country’s colleges and universities, which was scuttled after pushback from presidents at many of those schools. The College Scorecard includes no rankings or grades for schools, but does provide information, such as salaries after graduation, that had not been readily available before.

Based on the scorecard database, Georgia Tech and Georgia Highlands College were among schools where students earn high salaries after graduation. Eighty-eight Georgia private, public and for-profit institutions are included in the federal database.

The Obama administration also released plans over the weekend to allow students applying to college to apply for federal financial aid with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid three months earlier, beginning in October instead of January.

Under the current system, students planning to begin college in the fall would have to wait until January to fill out the FAFSA. The new application timeline better coincides with the start of college application season in October, and allows students and parents to determine their college costs earlier, White House officials said.

The changes will also allow students to apply for federal aid based on their family’s income from two years earlier instead of the immediate previous year as had been required.

Nationally, lawmakers have looked to streamline the application process, and the complexity and length of the FAFSA. Georgia’s senators signed on to legislation to trim the 108-question FAFSA. Estimates show about $2.9 billion — including $82.3 million in Georgia — in federal grant dollars went unused in 2013 because almost half of high school graduates didn’t fill out the form.


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