A recent Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) update was circulated by the College Board to college counselors, and I wanted to pass this useful information along. Your high school college counseling staff will have more details, as well as visiting FAFSA’s website.
Changes are being made to the FAFSA:
1. Students will be able to submit FAFSA earlier. Students can file a 2017–18 FAFSA as early as Oct. 1, 2016, rather than beginning on Jan. 1, 2017. The earlier submission date will be a permanent change, enabling students to complete and submit FAFSA as early as October 1 every year.
2. Students will use earlier income and tax information. Beginning with the 2017–18 FAFSA, students will be required to report income and tax information from an earlier tax year. For example, on the 2017–18 FAFSA, students (and parents, as appropriate) will report their 2015 income and tax information, rather than their 2016 income and tax information.
Why are the changes being made?
For many years, the FAFSA has been available for applicants to complete on January 1 for the following school year; and the FAFSA has required income and tax information from the previous calendar year. Recent research and the Department of Education’s own data suggest that implementing an earlier start date and using earlier income and tax information may benefit students in the following ways:
Alignment. For some students, the traditional FAFSA application cycle is not aligned with college admissions application deadlines, which typically occur in the fall prior to the FAFSA launch. The new financial aid application process will be more aligned with the college admission process for those students.
Certainty. Many deadlines for state aid are as early as March. If the FAFSA asks for information about tax forms that aren’t due until April 15, applicants have to estimate income or taxes paid in order to meet those state deadlines. And unfortunately, many students and parents mistakenly think they are not able to file a FAFSA until they file their tax return. This may cause students to miss certain federal, state, and/or institutional financial aid deadlines. As a result of the change to requiring earlier tax information, more students and families will be able to complete FAFSAs using data imported electronically from the IRS, rather than submitting applications with estimates that may need correcting later.
Less pressure. Students and parents will have more time to explore and understand financial aid options and apply for aid before state deadlines.