Volume 67, Issue I
FAFSA, as many seniors will already know, stands for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Current and incoming college students may ll it out each year to see if they qualify for aid. Based on their needs, they will be eligible for different types of federal, state, and institutional aid, most commonly in the form of grants, scholarships, work study programs, or subsidized loans, which can hopefully work to make daunting task of affording college tuition a little more manageable. Beginning this year, FAFSA has been updated to make the nancial aid process easier on students and their families.
One major change to FAFSA is their tax return policy. FAFSA asses nancial need largely based on information from tax returns, and up until last year, families were required to submit current year tax returns, or to estimate information from their returns if they were not yet led. And because the tax submission deadline is over four months after the FAFSA
was beginning to accept applications, the latter was more common. This led to much unnecessary complication, as submitted estimates often had altered later on, thus adding an element of uncertainty to a student’s nancial aid eligibility. Now, however, families are asked to submit tax returns from the previous year. This means that students applying for aid for the 2017-2018 school year will submit tax returns from 2015, lowering the amount of guesswork involved in the process. However, families who have seen a major decrease in income between 2015 and 2016 that does not appear on the 2015 tax return will still be able to make note of it on the new FAFSA, meaning that they will still receive the aid they need.
The other big change to the FAFSA this year is moved submission date. In prior years, FAFSA applicants could submit their information no earlier than January 1st. While this was not a problem when applying for federal aid alone, it was a major issue for those who hoped to get state and institutional aid. This is because, while students had over a year to submit the FAFSA for to qualify for federal aid, many states and institutions set a much shorter deadline. In many cases, students would only have a few months to submit before becoming ineligible, which put extra pressure on high school seniors who were considering their different financial aid options, and who perhaps would have wanted to take more time in deciding where they would ultimately go. Beginning this year, though, students can now submit the FAFSA as early as October 1st, which will leave them with more time to consider the aid packages offered to them by different schools. In accordance with this goal, the department of education has also asked schools to notify students as soon as possible, which would also help to take some of the already substantial pressure off of seniors.
Unfortunately, though, some schools have not been entirely complicit with this goal. Despite a request made by federal department of education, many schools have moved up their FAFSA ling deadlines, effectively canceling out whatever benefit the October 1st acceptance date might have had. New this year, for example, Binghamton University has moved their ling deadline up to January 1st. Luckily, this is not the case with every school, but seniors should certainly make note of the FAFSA deadlines set by the schools to which they are applying. It should also be noted that, even though ling date has been moved up to create a less urgent environment, financial aid is still offered on a largely first-come first-serve basis, meaning that students who apply as soon as possible after October 1st will still be the most likely to receive aid.
Hopefully seniors will nd some solace in the fact that they have more time to le the FAFSA (at least in theory). As residents of New York State, we are fortunate in that the state FAFSA deadline for the 2017-2018 school year is the same as the federal deadline– the relatively far out June 30th, 2018. But with early decision deadlines fast approaching, and regular submissions coming up just as quickly, it won’t be long now before all our seniors have to worry about is senioritis.