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Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Changes to FAFSA aim to simplify the process

The Federal Aid Department moved the date of when the FAFSA opens forward and changed the required tax information.

This year, the FAFSA opened for submissions starting Oct. 1, rather than the previous date of Jan. 1. Additionally, instead of reporting income information from the year a student submits their application, Federal Student Aid is now requiring income information from the previous tax year.

These changes, made in 2015 to take effect this year, aim to make the financial aid process simpler and more accessible. Director of Financial Aid Nick Prewett said one of the main goals of changing which year tax information comes from is to help students whose parents may file their taxes late.

“Students have always kind of had to wait on parents to complete their tax information,” Prewett said. “When you take that out of the equation it makes it a lot easier.”

The changes are a result of pressure from financial aid administrators and admissions officers, Prewett said, who wanted the FASFA timeline to align better with high school seniors’ college applications. He said the Obama administration wanted students to have earlier access to their financial aid information.

While the earlier opening date doesn’t guarantee earlier responses from colleges, it can affect some aid awards that are distributed on a first-come, first-serve basis. Prewett said that the date shift is mostly to “give students more time to prepare and think about college.”

Prewitt said typically, financial aid award letters are sent out in March. This year, the Office of Financial Aid will have them out by mid-December.

“It’s important for students to be aware of the date shift because of the potential impact on the amount of aid they receive,” Prewett said.

Junior Darielle Criss submitted her FAFSA soon after it became available in October.

“I read up on why they made the changes, and to me it seemed like it streamlines the process,” she said. “I wanted to submit it as soon as possible because I like the idea of getting a response a lot earlier than I have in past years.”

Criss said using 2015’s tax information makes the FAFSA simpler to complete.

“I’m still a dependant of my mom, so in the past I had to wait for her to send me the tax information,” Criss said. “Now that we use 2015 taxes, I already had it all.”

Edited by Claire Mitzel | cmitzel@themaneater.com

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