The purpose of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is to let low-income students apply for financial aid to pay for college. This money helps them access and complete a college education. It might seem strange, then, to ask whether the FAFSA discriminates against low-income students. After all, the goal of the form is to help low-income students get the money for which they are eligible. Why would the form discriminate against the students it is supposed to help?
But, the FAFSA seems to target low-income students for extra scrutiny and complexity, above and beyond the requirements for middle- and high-income students. This forces low-income students to run a gauntlet of small and large slights, each of which hinders their progress to a college degree or certificate.
The discrimination against low-income students is pervasive. It affects the financial aid forms and formulas, deadlines, verification, the IRS Data Retrieval Tool and the IRS Get a Transcript Tool.
The student aid policy analysis paper, Does the FAFSA Discriminate against Low-Income Students, explores these questions