Department of Education announces inclusive form change for student aid

The Department of Education today announced that beginning with the 2014-2015 federal student aid form, it will — for the first time — 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 Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or 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 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.”

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said today:

All students should be able to apply for federal student aid within a system that incorporates their unique family dynamics. These changes will allow us to more precisely calculate federal student aid eligibility based on what a student’s whole family is able to contribute and ensure taxpayer dollars are better targeted toward those students who have the most need, as well as provide an inclusive form that reflects the diversity of American families.

According to the Department of Education, the FAFSA has long been constructed to collect information about a student’s parents only if the parents are married. “As a result, it has excluded income and other information from one of the student’s legal parents (biological or adoptive) when the parents are unmarried, even if those parents are living together. Gender-specific terms also fail to capture income and other information from one parent when a student’s parents are in a same-sex marriage under state law but not federally recognized under the Defense of Marriage Act.”

The department will ask for comments after it publishes the changes this week in the Federal Register. Read the full Department of Education statement.