Education department releasing mobile-friendly FAFSA

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) will soon be available on a new mobile app and a website redesigned to work well on mobile devices like phones and tablets. Students and their families will be able to fully utilize the upgrades next month, when the Department of Education releases the 2019-20 FAFSA form, the Star Tribune reports.

Prior to these new digital options—which were announced late last year and have been implemented in waves—the cumbersome form was difficult to complete without access to a desktop computer. Because so many people use mobile devices, having the FAFSA app accessible via mobile is a game-changer. Previously, “it was clunky to use on a phone,” Kim Cook, executive director of the National College Access Network, told the Star Tribune.

Cook and the National College Access Network were among the first to user-test the beta version of the FAFSA mobile app, which is called myStudentAid and is available for both Apple and Android devices. While, overall, the reviews were positive, some challenges remain. For example, the app currently won’t allow individuals to import financial information from the IRS’s online data retrieval tool; that step still requires a desktop computer. The IRS tool will have full mobile functionality when the education department updates the app next month, according to a spokesperson.

MorraLee Keller, the National College Access Network’s director of technical assistance, blogged about how useful the app can be for students and their families. “Can you visualize the cafeteria filled with students and families and their phones laid out on the tables?” Keller wrote. “Would students work on the FAFSA in class or at lunch, since it is on their phone? Could you meet with families anywhere in the community to complete the form? Yes, all of the above are possibilities this year.”

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