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Federal student aid is intended to play an integral part in fulfilling the promise of greater academic access and success for less affluent students. However, many experts have expressed concern about the length and complexity of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and the statutory need analysis formula used to determine aid eligibility. The Higher Education Opportunity Act required GAO to form a study group to examine options and implications in simplifying the financial aid process. The study group focused on (1) identifying ways to shorten the FAFSA and make it less burdensome to complete, (2) identifying changes to the statutory need analysis formula that would reduce the amount of financial information required by the FAFSA without causing significant redistribution of federal and state student aid, and (3) determining how any changes to the FAFSA and the statutory need analysis formula could be implemented. To address these questions we convened an expert panel on May 7, 2009, and conducted additional interviews with experts. This summary captures the ideas and themes that emerged at the panel and during interviews. It does not necessarily represent the views of GAO or of the organizations whose representatives participated in the study group.

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