Federal Student Aid Form Now Using 'Parent 1' and 'Parent 2' to 'Reflect Diversity' and Better Calculate Aid

By Susan Jones | May 10, 2013 | 7:28am EDT

The Free Federal Student Aid Form (FAFSA) has will now use the non-gender-specific terms 'Parent 1' and 'Parent 2'. (AP Photo)

(CNSNews.com) - Applying for federal student aid? The application no longer asks about a student's "mother" and "father." Instead, the U.S. Education Department is replacing those terms with "Parent 1" and "Parent 2."

"All students should be able to apply for federal student aid within a system that incorporates their unique family dynamics," said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan in the April 29 announcement.

"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, as well as provide an inclusive form that reflects the diversity of American families."

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), until now, has collected information about a student's parents only if the parents are married.

As a result, says the Education Department, the FAFSA has excluded income and other information from one of the student's legal parents (biological or adoptive) when the parents are unmarried, even if those parents are living together. The terms "mother" and "father" also fail to capture income and other information from one parent when a student's parents are in a same-sex marriage under state law but not federally recognized under the Defense of Marriage Act.

The 2014-2015 FAFSA will provide a new option for dependent applicants to describe their parents' marital status as "unmarried and both parents living together." Additionally, the new FAFSA form also will use terms like "Parent 1 (father/mother/stepparent)" and "Parent 2 (father/mother/stepparent)" instead of gender-specific terms like "mother" and "father."

The information provided on the FAFSA is used to calculate the student's expected family contribution, which determines a student's eligibility for federal need-based student aid as well as for many state, institutional and private aid programs.

"It is critical that both of a dependent student's parents help pay, to the extent they are able, for the educational expenses of their child," the news release said. "Collecting parental information from both of a dependent student's legal parents will result in fair treatment of all families by eliminating longstanding inequities based on parents' relationship with each other rather than on their relationship with their child."

While most students will be unaffected, the eligibility of some dependent students will change because of the additional income used in the calculation of the expected family contribution, the Education Department said.

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