The Department of Education has announced that starting with the 2014-2015 Free Application for Federal Student Aid, they will recognize same-sex parents for the purposes of income info on applications for federal financial aid. Income information will now be unaware of legal parents\’ marital status or gender if those individuals live together, reports the Washington Blade.
The precise changes are two-fold. First, the applying will offer a choice for students to describe their parents\’ marital status as \”unmarried and both mom and dad living together.\” Second, where appropriate, the brand new FAFSA form will use terms like \”Parent 1 (father/mother/stepparent)\” and \”Parent 2 (father/mother/stepparent)\” rather than gender-specific terms like \”mother\” or \”father.\”
Before this change FAFSA only collected information about a student\’s parents if they were legally married in a manner recognized under the Defense of Marriage Act.
While the changes will be more including LGBT families, and become fairer overall, it\’s unlikely to become of financial help to that community. The Department of Education reports that in most circumstances these families will now become less eligible for assistance as the income of previously ignored parents is taken into consideration.
\”These changes allows us to calculate eligibility according to what a student\’s whole family is able to contribute and be sure 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 truly amazing diversity of yankee families.\”
Duncan went on to stress the changes only affected a small minority of students but would be fairer to both the LGBT community by no longer automatically disenfranchising them, and to student families overall because they would not be treated differently.
Despite the chance that LGBT student families will be worse off overall underneath the changes, the move has been praised by LGBT groups like the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network.
\”GLSEN has long worked to ensure that sexual orientation and gender identity are not used to discriminate against students in our nation\’s K-12 schools, whether that student identifies as LGBT, has LGBT friends, or comes from an LGBT family,\” said GLSEN Director of Public Policy Shawn Gaylord. \”We\’re thrilled by the Department of Education\’s decision to allow students completing the FAFSA to accurately describe the makeup of their family, no matter their sexual orientation or gender identity.\”
The Family Equality Council, the Consortium of Higher Education LGBT Resource Professionals and the National Center for Transgender Equality all echoed the praise.