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Secretary Spellings Announces New Tool to Help Families Plan for College


U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings today unveiled a new online tool to help students and families financially prepare and plan for college before a student’s senior year of high school. Called the FAFSA4caster, it provides students with an early estimate of their eligibility for federal financial aid, which could include a Pell grant of up to $4,310.

“Improving college access and affordability are key to giving more Americans a chance at higher education and keeping America competitive,” said Secretary Spellings. “Families need more information—sooner—about students’ federal aid eligibility so that they can plan ahead for college. The FAFSA4caster gives families an important tool they can use to make decisions about the future.”

The FAFSA4caster will

-Instantly calculate a student’s eligibility for federal student aid, including grants,
-Reduce the time it will take to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and
-Simplify the financial aid process for students and families.
Last September, Secretary Spellings announced her plans to improve the U.S. higher education system, based on the recommendations in the final report of her Commission on the Future of Higher Education. Today’s announcement puts in place one of the Secretary’s action steps—to notify students of their aid eligibility earlier than spring of their senior year.

In addition to helping families make informed decisions as they plan for college, the FAFSA4caster will also reduce the application time when students file their FAFSA in their senior year in high school. The FAFSA4caster pre-populates 51 of the 102 questions on the FAFSA, significantly reducing the time it takes for the student to complete the FAFSA in their senior year of high school.

The FAFSA4caster will be available on April 1 at It will be available in Spanish on April 29. In September, the Department will release the next version of the FAFSA4caster, which will estimate a student’s federal entire aid package, including eligibility for federal student loans.

Need-based aid is one of the topics that will be discussed during Secretary Spellings’ Higher Education Summit, “A Test of Leadership—Committing to Advance Post-Secondary Education for all Americans,” on Thursday, March 22 in Washington, D.C. The summit will focus on action items around five recommendations from the Commission’s report that will make an impact on improving college access, affordability and accountability in America’s higher education system, including aligning K-12 and higher education expectations; increasing need-based aid for access and success; using accreditation to support and emphasize student learning outcomes; serving adults and other non-traditional students; and enhancing affordability, decreasing costs, and promoting productivity.

Additional information about the FAFSA4caster is available now at For more information on the Secretary’s Commission on the Future of Higher Education, please visit


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