Mark Wiederspan

Arizona State University
PO Box 871811, Mail Code 1811
Tempe, AZ 85287-1811

E-Mail: EmailAddress: hidden: you can email any NBER-related person as first underscore last at nber dot org
Institutional Affiliation: Arizona State University

NBER Working Papers and Publications

January 2013Simplifying Tax Incentives and Aid for College: Progress and Prospects
with Susan Dynarski, Judith Scott-Clayton: w18707
The application for federal student aid is longer than the tax returns filled out by the majority of US households. Research suggests that complexity in the aid process undermines its effectiveness in inducing more students into college. In 2008, an article in this journal showed that most of the data items in the aid application did not affect the distribution of aid, and that the much shorter set of variables available in IRS data could be used to closely replicate the existing distribution of aid. This added momentum to a period of discussion and activity around simplification in Congress and the US Department of Education. In this article, we provide a five-year retrospective of what's changed in the aid application process, what hasn't, and the possibilities for future reform. While ...
Simplifying Tax Incentives and Aid for College: Progress and Prospects
with Susan Dynarski, Judith Scott-Clayton
in Tax Policy and the Economy, Volume 27, Jeffrey R. Brown, editor
February 2012Student Aid Simplification: Looking Back and Looking Ahead
with Susan Dynarski: w17834
Each year, fourteen million households seeking federal aid for college complete a detailed questionnaire about their finances, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). At 116 questions, the FAFSA is almost as long as IRS Form 1040 and substantially longer than Forms 1040EZ and 1040A. Aid for college is intended to increase college attendance by reducing its price and loosening liquidity constraints. Economic theory, empirical evidence and common sense suggest that complexity in aid could undermine its ability to affect schooling decisions. In 2006, Dynarski and Scott-Clayton published an analysis of complexity in the aid system that generated considerable discussion in academic and policy circles. Over the next few years, complexity in the aid system drew the attention of the ...

Published: “Student Aid Simplification: Looking Back and Looking Ahead.” 2012. National Tax Journal 65:1, pp. 211-234. Co-author: Mark Wiederspan. citation courtesy of

NBER Videos

National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138; 617-868-3900; email:

Contact Us