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FAFSA to include option for children of same-sex and divorced couples

Starting in the 2014-2015 school year, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) will provide options to simplify the aid process for children of same-sex and divorced parents.

The changes will allow students to list their parents’ marital status as “unmarried and both parents living together,” according to a Department of Education press release, which will account for unmarried parents who live with a significant other. The existing FAFSA is designed to collect information only about married parents.

In the press release, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said that all students should be able to apply for federal aid in 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,” Duncan said, “as well as provide an inclusive form that reflects the diversity of American families.”

The forthcoming change will eliminate gender-specific terms like “mother” and “father” and replace them with terms like “Parent 1 (father/mother/stepparent)” and “Parent 2 (father/mother/stepparent).”

“These changes allow us to provide an inclusive form that reflects the great diversity of American families,” Duncan said.

Binghamton University student Jeremy Goldstein, a son of same-sex parents, said he was pleased to see FAFSA making an effort to be more inclusive.

“I think the change is relevant to today’s society,” said Goldstein, a senior majoring in philosophy, politics and law. “Especially given the fact that Rhode Island just made same sex marriage legal [on Thursday].”

Currently, FAFSA does not take information from students with same-gender parents who are married but not federally recognized because of the Defense of Marriage Act.

Though same-sex parents would gain federal recognition from the policy changes, it’s likely students who previously reported only one parent on their FAFSA would actually get less aid money with the new system, as they would be reporting two incomes instead of one.

“Collecting information from both parents and considering the income of the whole family will likely result in less need-based federal student aid for these applicants who are affected because of the recognition of the complete financial resources of the family,” Duncan explained.

The Department of Education will publish the FAFSA changes later this week in the Federal Register for public comment.