Ongoing Barriers to College Aid

Two tweaks to the federal student aid application process -- an earlier start date and use of family income data from the previous year -- appear to have boosted completion rates of applications for federal student aid. A years-long decline in filings of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid was reversed. Every state saw its application numbers go up. And applications by high school seniors were up 9 percent over the previous year as of June 30, traditionally considered the end of the academic year.

But two papers released Tuesday by the National College Access Network found that those changes didn't fundamentally simplify what's often a painfully complicated process of applying for aid to attend college. And students from the lowest-income school districts -- those most in need of federal aid -- continue to lag peers in wealthier districts in completing the FAFSA.

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