When you submit the FAFSA for the 2017-2018 school year, it’ll look a little different, USA Today reported last September. President Obama announced changes to the federal aid application last year. It will be available earlier and ask for “prior-prior year” tax information.
This year’s FAFSA will be available starting Oct. 1, 2016, rather than the traditional date of Jan. 1, 2017. Tax information requirements will change, too, to make submitting earlier easy on applicants. Past versions of the FAFSA required prior year tax information. For example, the 2016-2017 FAFSA required families’ 2015 information. Applicants will now submit “prior-prior” information from two years ago. For the 2017-2018 FAFSA, that means 2015 tax information.
If that sounds confusing, don’t worry: some experts think so, too. Two-year-old tax information may no longer be accurate. Asking for older information also further complicates the form.
“The more questions you ask, the more likely you are to cause a low-income student not to file the form, it’s a process that seems stacked against the very population that it’s trying to help which is the low-income students,” Mark Kantrowitz of Edvisors.com said to USA Today.
The aim of the new FAFSA is to simplify the process, and some involved think it will. Students may plan how to pay for college earlier if the FAFSA is available earlier. Colleges and universities will have more information. The earlier date gives them more time to decide how to give out financial aid.
“I think that it’s going to help emphasize pursuing scholarships rather than paying out in student loans,” Ben Kaplan of scholarship site Scholaroo, said.
Time will tell if the form is more trouble or more helpful than its older counterpart. Good thing for that Oct. 1 head start.