To apply for financial aid in the future, enrolled students must pay a $25 fee because Richmond is now using the College Scholarship Service (CSS) profile to streamline the application process.

In the past, applicants had to submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), a supplemental application for Richmond and copies of federal tax forms, said Cindy Deffenbaugh, director of financial aid at Richmond.

With the new process, applicants are still required to submit the FAFSA and copies of federal tax forms, but the supplemental application has been replaced by the CSS profile, Deffenbaugh said.

In the past, applicants had to download the supplement, fill it out, print it, mail it to the Richmond's financial aid office and wait for the office to manually process the application, Deffenbaugh said. Now the process is more streamlined and efficient because the application can be filled out online and submitted electronically, she said.

In the past, the Richmond's financial aid office would experience backlog of the manual processing, Deffenbaugh said. This delayed the office's ability to confirm that an applicant's entire application had been received, she said. The electronic submission of the CSS profile eliminates this problem because it loads all of the information directly into the Richmond system, she said.

This process benefits the applicant and the financial aid office because the office will be able to process applications quicker and students will be notified about their financial aid package sooner, Deffenbaugh said. If students are notified earlier, they have more time to plan ahead, she said.

This is especially important because financial aid applications are increasing, Deffenbaugh said.

The CSS profile also saves paper and eliminates the process of manual documentation and filing of paper applications for the staff, she said.

Deffenbaugh was not sure how much the CSS profile would speed up the application process until after the office experiences the first cycle of applications that are due on May 15, she said.

The CSS profile was used by students who applied for financial aid in Fall 2011 and it worked well, Deffenbaugh said.

The $25 fee can be waived for prospective students from low-income families because these students are often applying for financial aid at multiple schools to compare financial aid packages, Deffenbaugh said.

Fees cannot be waived for current students because the fee is charged to provide a service, she said.

A representative from College Board, the provider of the CSS profile, said there were no circumstances under which the financial aid application fee could ever be waived for students who are currently enrolled.

"It is a reasonable cost for efficiency," Deffenbaugh said.

The new application will not affect how financial aid is distributed, she said.

The financial aid office sent out a letter to students and parents in October about the change in the application process, Deffenbaugh said. If applicants are confused by the CSS profile, they can use the College Board help line for online support or they can contact the Richmond financial aid office.

Richmond is now one of 276 colleges, universities and scholarship programs that use the CSS profile to determine financial aid packages, according to the College Board website.

Contact reporter Madeline Small at