The US Department of Education is changing when families can begin filling out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). "Traditionally", it has begin January 1 of the year the student begins fall semester. With the changes, that opening date is moved to October 1 (starting in 2017).
(see below for the full announcement.)
What does that mean?
Factually speaking, a student can fill out the FAFSA, and possibly get information on their financial aid eligibility for a college, almost 1 full year before they begin fall classes.
On the positive, financial aid packages can be created earlier, so that students can get a better idea of if they will receive financial aid at a particular school, or if they should apply for a different one (before those deadlines passes). Another possible positive may be that other financial aid forms , such as the CSS(which some private colleges require) may not be necessary. So possibly less paperwork, and less money (CSS charges a fee; FAFSA is always free, with it being the FREE Application for Federal Student Aid).
On the negative, financial aid deadlines will also be moved up, meaning things such as Illinois' MAP grant (worth up to $4700) will run out of money even sooner.
What you can/should do about it?
Plan to have a FAFSA completion service the first week of January. Whether it is on the actual holiday of New Year's, or the first Sunday, or during the week, the next round of financial aid won't begin until January 1, 2016.
Then immediately plan TWO big financial aid pushes for the following year. The first should occur near the first week of October 2016. Another alternative is to hold a FAFSA completion session on Columbus Day. Both Students and many parents should have that day off. Churches could hold their session on the holiday, or following their service on Sunday.
The second big push should continue to be either the first Sunday of the new Year, or starting in 2016, in December, when your returning college students are back as well.
See Do-Gooder's previous blog on planning a FAFSA completion session
Here is the official announcement from the US Department of Education. They also have a PDF with FAQ's (Frquently Asked Questions)
about this change.
Today, Monday, September 14, 2015, President Obama announced significant changes to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) process that will impact millions of students. We want to inform you—our partners in the college access, planning, and funding process—about these changes and provide you with tools and information you can use.
Changes for the 2017–18 FAFSA®
(1) (1) The 2016–17 FAFSA® will be the final FAFSA to launch on January 1. Beginning with the 2017–18 application, the FAFSA will be available to students and families October 1 of the previous year. This means students who need to complete the 2017–18 FAFSA will be able to access and submit the form anytime from October 1, 2016, through June 30, 2018.
(2) (2) In addition to changing the launch date for the application cycle, beginning with the 2017–18 FAFSA, we also will change the requirements for reporting income information. Currently, FAFSA applicants are required to provide income information from the “prior year.” For example, 2016–17 applicants must report 2015 income information. Beginning with the 2017–18 FAFSA, applicants will be required to provide “prior-prior” year income information. This means that the 2017–18 FAFSA will collect 2015 income information.
The following table provides a summary of key dates as we transition to using the early FAFSA submission time frame and earlier tax information.
When a Student Is Attending College (School Year)
When a Student Can Submit a FAFSA
Which Year’s Income Information Is Required
July 1, 2015–June 30, 2016
January 1, 2015–June 30, 2016
July 1, 2016–June 30, 2017
January 1, 2016–June 30, 2017
July 1, 2017–June 30, 2018
October 1, 2016–June 30, 2018
July 1, 2018–June 30, 2019
October 1, 2017–June 30, 2019
Resources for You and Your Students
To assist you and your students in learning about these changes, the U.S. Department of Education and the White House have prepared several informational pieces (a fact sheet, FAQ, etc.). You can access some of them at FinancialAidToolkit.ed.gov/fafsa-changes now; and others will be added later today.
We will update the Financial Aid Toolkit and StudentAid.gov sites as the 2017–18 FAFSA launch approaches. Keep an eye out in spring 2016 for further resources such as talking points, suggested tweets and Facebook posts, etc.
Please know the President’s remarks which will be streamed live from Des Moines beginning at 4:40 p.m. ET at whitehouse.gov/live.
As always, we thank you for everything you do to advance equity in access to higher education for the nation’s students.
Federal Student Aid Outreach Team
830 First Street, NE
Washington D.C. 20202
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