This Spring, the FAFSA Goes Mobile

December 4, 2017         By: Steven Anderson

Ah, spring. When a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of…college. While college is somewhat falling out of vogue these days in favor of trade schools and apprenticeships, there are still plenty of bright young minds who will pursue higher topics of business, STEM, and even some arts. In a bid to help said young minds, the current Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced that, starting this spring, the FAFSA was going mobile.

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid—FAFSA–is what’s commonly used to find sources of government money, loans or otherwise, for young folks heading to college. Normally, it was a paper document, but now it’s expanding outward into the mobile area as part of a larger overall strategy of getting these documents into more hands.

In fact, at last report, fully $2 billion in student aid was going largely unused, thanks to a combination of difficulty in application and a general perception of difficulty in acquiring. That’s a development that may change thanks to the new FAFSA mobile app, as well as other changes poised to arrive as part of the larger initiative.

The platform will have some other ramifications as well; it’s envisioned that FAFSA will become part of a larger overall system that allows students to compare offers of financial aid, managing loan payments, and even potentially adding a complete peer-to-peer (P2P) mobile payments system.

If FAFSA branches out the way it’s envisioned, this could be a pretty big deal. If the government becomes a payment processor—as it would have to if FAFSA became a mobile payments mechanism—it would be making money. How that money would be subsequently treated is unclear; would it go back into the FAFSA system as a means to provide loans, grants and scholarships? If that’s the case, that could be a huge selling point. Would it be dispersed into the general fund? That could raise serious questions; a college student using P2P to buy dinner may not like the notion of contributing to buying missiles.

The FAFSA is facing a lot of changes going forward. Only time will tell what the end product looks like, but this could be the start of something downright amazing.