Dept. of Education to recognize same-sex parents
The Department of Education will begin recognizing a student’s same-sex parents on applications for federal financial aid for the purposes of income information, although in most circumstances the change will likely result in these families being eligible for less assistance.
In an announcement on Monday, the department announced it will begin collecting income information from a dependent student’s legal parents regardless of their marital status or gender as long as those parents live together. The change begins with the 2014-2015 Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA.
The precise changes are two-fold. First, the application will offer an option for students to describe their parents’ marital status as “unmarried and both parents living together.” Second, where appropriate, the new FAFSA form will use terms like “Parent 1 (father/mother/stepparent)” and “Parent 2 (father/mother/stepparent)” instead of gender-specific terms like “mother” or “father.”
In a conference call with reporters, Education Secretary Arne Duncan said the change will enable students to apply for aid “in a way that incorporates their unique family dynamic.”
“These changes will allow us to calculate eligibility based on what a student’s whole family is able to contribute and ensure that limited taxpayer dollars are better targeted toward those students who have the most need,” Duncan said. “And very importantly, these changes allow us to provide an inclusive form that reflects the great diversity of American families.”
The income information provided on the FAFSA is used to calculate a student’s expected family contribution, or EFC. That number decides a student’s eligibility for federal need-based student aid, such as grants and students loans, in addition to eligibility for many state, institutional and private aid programs.