FAFSA to include same-sex parents

The changes could lead to reductions in some students' aid.

Starting in the 2014-15 school year, students who receive federal financial aid and have same-sex parents who live together will have both parents' incomes count in financial aid calculations, the Department of Education announced Monday.

Previously, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid only collected income information from both parents if they were married, excluding students with biological or adoptive parents who were not legally married but still lived together. The FAFSA also only collected income information from one parent if a same-sex couple was legally married because the federal Defense of Marriage Act did not recognized same-sex marriages granted under state law.

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said the changes will ensure financial aid is allocated more fairly and effectively.

"All students should be able to apply for federal student aid within a system that incorporates their unique family dynamics," Duncan said in a news release, adding that the changes will help "ensure taxpayer dollars are better targeted toward those students who have the most need."

The DOE said that most students' aid packages will not change under the new calculations because most students are independent, live with two married parents or live with one parent who is not married to and does not live with the other parent. However, some students' aid could decrease when a second live-in parent's income is factored into a student's expected family contributions.

The 2014-15 FAFSA will also amend parent designations from "Mother/Stepmother" and "Father/Stepfather" to "Parent 1" and "Parent 2" to help the children of same-sex couples more accurately report their family's information. Other federal agencies' paperwork, including the State Department's passport documents, have already adopted gender-neutral designations.

The Family Equity Council, which advocates for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender families, praised the changes, saying they will help the government more fairly delegate aid.

"Federal forms that are inclusive of all families are important tools to help LGBT parents ensure their children receive the legal and financial protections they need and the opportunities in life that they deserve," Director of Public Policy Emily Hecht-McGowan said in a statement. The DOE will enter the changes in the Federal Register this week so the public can comment on the 2014-15 FAFSA draft.

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