President seeks to simplify college aid
WASHINGTON - The Obama administration plans to simplify the federal college aid form, which at 153 questions drives millions of families to give up before they finish.
President Obama wants to make the form much more user-friendly as part of a sweeping plan to put higher education within reach of more students.
Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who announced the changes at the White House yesterday along with IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman, said the goal is to boost college enrollment among low- and middle-income students.
Both men described the current form as a nightmare. Duncan said it has prevented hundreds of thousands of students from going to college because they could not navigate the form and pursue aid. Shulman described the current form as “an endurance test for students and their families.’’
Robert Groves, 60, a veteran survey researcher with the University of Michigan, was easily approved by a Senate committee last month. But Republicans have stalled Groves’ full confirmation vote.
As a former census associate director, Groves pushed for the use of statistical sampling in the 1990s to make up for an undercount of millions of minorities who tend to vote for Democrats, but was later overruled by the Republican commerce secretary.
Spokesman Robert Gibbs said there was nothing inappropriate in how an administration official phoned the Huffington Post’s Nico Pitney and suggested President Obama might take a question from him if he came prepared with one submitted to the reporter from someone inside Iran. “The question wasn’t planted,’’ Gibbs said.
But reporters pressed Gibbs on how often the White House might preselect specific reporters to ask specific questions about certain topics. Gibbs pushed back, saying the White House did not plant the question, but invited a writer who had asked Iranians about what they would ask the White House.
Pitney, who has been blogging from the United States about protests in Iran, relayed a question from an Iranian he described as “still courageous enough to be communicating online.’’ Pitney asked Obama if he would recognize Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s reelection.