By Mike DeNardo

By Mike DeNardo

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The government is allowing potential college students to file for federal student aid three months earlier.

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Right now students can’t file the FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid, before January — and they have to wait until their tax returns are filed to retrieve income information. U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, on a morning conference call, said that process will soon be easier.

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“Beginning next fall, about a year from now, students and families will have access to the FAFSA on October 1st,” Duncan said. “And they’ll be able to use their tax information from the previous year when completing the form.”

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Duncan said this, combined with a simpler FAFSA form that takes 20 minutes rather than an hour to fill out, should help more students to determine whether they can afford college.