The largest source of financial aid comes from the federal government. According to the US Department of Education’s Federal Student Aid FY 2015 Annual Report, the government awarded $128 billion of federal student aid to almost 12 million students in FY 2015. If you are interested in receiving federal and state aid, you must complete and submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which can be completed either online or by paper (note: using the online version will get your application processed faster).
In September of last year, President Obama announced a new initiative that will change the FAFSA filing process beginning with the 2017-18 school year and going into effect on October 1, 2016.
Earlier Submittal Date
Beginning with the entering class of 2017-18, FAFSA applications are permitted to be submitted as early as October 1, 2016 versus January 1, 2017. This gives students and/or their families more time to apply for federal and state aid. Prior to this change, the FAFSA couldn’t be completed and submitted before January 1 of the same calendar school year in which a student was interested in receiving financial aid. This was problematic for some because of the April 15 tax due date; the FAFSA was oftentimes completed later in the process due to the timing of the taxes being filed.
Earlier Tax Information
Also starting with the 2017-18 entering class, tax information will be used from the year 2015 instead of 2016. This “prior prior” rule will allow students and/or their families to submit older tax information for a more timely and accurate submission. This especially holds true if the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT) is used because the DRT permits tax information to be transferred directly from the IRS to the FAFSA application. Prior to this change, tax information was frequently estimated and/or inaccurate and needed to be amended.
Because some financial aid is distributed on a first come first served basis, it’s important that you complete and submit your FAFSA as soon as possible. The new filing changes should make the process a bit easier.
For more information visit FAFSA changes for 2017-18.