The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) has made two permanent changes this year that are important for students to know before they register for the 2017-18 year. These changes to FAFSA have made the application process simpler and easier for students and their parents.
The first change is that students have the ability to register for FAFSA as early as Oct. 1, which is three months earlier than the previous registration start of Jan. 1. The second change is that students and parents are using their previous income and tax information to fill out the application.
Now that FAFSA is available three months earlier, students can complete and submit the FAFSA as early as Oct. 1 every year. This will give students more time to meet most deadlines and to explore and understand their financial aid options.
Even though the registration for the FAFSA will be earlier, most of the deadlines will remain around their original times, ensuring that students really do get three extra months to fill out their applications. Students should pay attention to deadlines though, as some deadlines are earlier than others.
Beginning with the 2017-18 FAFSA, students will be “required to report income and tax info from an earlier tax year,” according to the FAFSA website. For example, on the 2017-18 FAFSA, students and their parents will report their 2015 income and tax information, rather than their 2016 income and tax information. Barbara Miller, the director of financial aid at Stevenson University, said that returning students will automatically be able to access their income and tax information through the IRS website. Most families will get an advantage through that.
COMMON CONCERNS FOR THE NEW FAFSA PROCESS
Students should answer all of the questions on the FAFSA application with current answers; the only information that should be from the previous year is that pertaining to income and tax. If incomes or marital statuses have changed in the household since the previous year, then the information should be given to the financial aid office at the student’s school.
Some schools will reward financial aid earlier because of the earlier schedule, but not all schools will. If students have questions about that, they should ask their school’s Financial Aid offices. Miller is positive about the new program because it will benefit most families, but she thinks that schools will have a transition phrase because it is new.
The new process for FAFSA is one that students must learn and understand to submit the correct information so that there are no delays. FAFSA should be simpler and easier to fill out now because of the changes. Students can find more information about the changes to FAFSA that includes a visual timeline on the FAFSA website. Questions about specific information should be directed towards the school’s financial aid office at 443-334-3200.