FAFSA, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, is a form families need to fill out to get financial aid for college, including grants, loans and money for work-study. Additionally, some colleges, states and scholarship programs also use the FAFSA. Historically, families with high school seniors filed the FAFSA starting on January 1 of their senior year using the federal tax data due on April 15 of the senior year (known as Prior Year).
Starting with high school graduating class of June 2017, the timetable and tax year associated with the FAFSA will be changing. The high school class of 2017 will be eligible to file the FAFSA starting on October 1st, 2016, three months earlier than in previous years. They will use 2015 Federal income tax returns (known as Prior-Prior Year (PPY)).
I am hoping this change will be positive for families, because:
- Filling out the FAFSA should be a little easier. Families:
- Should be able to use the software (i.e., the IRS data-retrieval tool) to fill out much of the FAFSA, reducing the time to fill out the form.
- Families won’t need to estimate their income or correct it later as was often the case in previous years.
- They will potentially find out about their financial aid earlier in their senior year, giving them more time to consider their options.
There is still some uncertainty for the high school class of 2017. For example:
- The deadlines for institutional aid may change at some colleges.
- Students may initially receive estimated financial aid packages, because college costs for the coming year may not be finalized and/or because state grant data may not be available. If this is the case, the families will subsequently receive confirmed financial aid packages.
On the whole, I am expecting these FAFSA changes to be positive.