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New online tool simplifies financial aid process.

A new online tool to help students and families prepare financially for college before a student's senior year of high school is now available. Called the FAFSA4caster, it provides high school juniors with an early estimate of their eligibility for federal financial aid, which could include a Pell Grant of up to $4,310 based on financial need.

"Improving college access and affordability is key to giving more Americans a chance at higher education and keeping America competitive," said U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings, who introduced the tool in late March. "Families need more information--sooner--about students' federal aid eligibility so that they can plan ahead for college. The FAFSA4caster gives families an important tool they can use to make decisions about the future."

The FAFSA4caster:

* Calculates a student's eligibility for federal student aid, including grants;

* Reduces the time it will take to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA); And

* Simplifies the financial aid process for students and families.

The FAFSA4caster allows for an easy transition to FAFSA on the Web, the online version of the federal application. It pre-populates 51 of the 102 questions on the FAFSA, significantly reducing the time it takes for students to complete the FAFSA in their senior year of high school.

The FAFSA4caster is available in both English and Spanish at http://www.fafsa4caster.ed.gov.

Last September, Secretary Spellings announced her plans to improve the U.S. higher education system, based on the recommendations listed in the final report of her Commission on the Future of Higher Education. The report included five major recommendations for improving college access, affordability and accountability: 1) aligning K-12 and higher education expectations; 2) increasing need-based aid for access and success of low-income students; 3) using accreditation to support and emphasize student learning outcomes; 4) serving adults and other nontraditional students; and 5) enhancing affordability, decreasing costs and promoting productivity. The release of the FAFSA4caster puts into place one of the secretary's action steps in response to these recommendations.
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Publication:The Achiever
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 1, 2007
Words:335
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