The Education Department is no longer planning to ask students whether they are transgender on the new Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which is supposed to launch later this year, according to a notice in the Federal Register.
Instead, transgender students can select the gender with which they identify at the time of completing the form. The gender question has four options: “male,” “female,” “nonbinary” or “prefer not to answer.” The demographic questions on the form are used for research purposes only and won’t be shared with institutions, according to a draft version of the application.
One commenter, who was concerned about the department’s ability to handle the information securely, said the question posed “a very substantial risk to the Queer and Transgender community.” Another commenter who works in a rural area said the question might deter some parents who are helping their students fill out the form.
“Many parents in this area question the value of college and may make assumptions about why that question is on the FAFSA,” the comment read. “It is a very hot topic, and this will likely be received poorly by parents already skeptical about the college experience.”
In response to this comment, the department noted that it had “revised the demographic questions.”
Only a handful of the 207 comments the department received on the initial draft referenced the transgender question; several of them were supportive.