Department of Education will use gender-neutral terms for mother and father on financial aid forms

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Department of Education has announced that student financial aid forms will begin using the terms "Parent 1" and "Parent 2" rather than the gender-specific terms "mother" and "father."

The 2014-15 federal student aid forms will for the first time collect income and other information from a dependent student's legal parents regardless of the parents' marital status or gender, if those parents live together, according to a recent press release from the department.

In addition to removing "mother" and "father," the new forms will provide an option for applicants to describe their parents' marital status as "unmarried and both parents living together."

"All students should be able to apply for federal student aid within a system that incorporates their unique family dynamics," U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said.

The secretary added that the changes will allow for more precise calculations of aid eligibility based on what a student's whole family is able to contribute "as well as provide an inclusive form that reflects the diversity of American families."

Traditionally, the federal aid forms have been written to collect information about a student's parents only if the parents are married, thus excluding income and other information from one of the student's legal parents when the parents are unmarried, even if those parents are living together, the department said.

"Gender-specific terms also fail to capture income and other information from one parent when a student's parents are in a same-sex marriage under state law but not federally recognized under the Defense of Marriage Act," the department said.