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SENIORS, It is time to add another important deadline. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, registration is starting October 1 instead of the usual January 1.
FAFSA is a form filled out by college-bound students who are applying to college, and it provides them with grants, loans, and work study funds. Every year, the U.S. Department of Education gives out more than $150 billion in aid. This year, the process is starting three months earlier to ensure that students get the most money possible to attend their dream schools.
One of the most noteworthy changes is associated with family tax information. In the past, families have submitted their most recent tax information. However, this year families will be allowed to use prior-prior year (PPY) tax information. For example, the class of 2017 will be submitting tax information from 2015. By doing so, families will not be estimating their taxes but providing colleges with more accurate information about their incomes.
Ed M. Pacchetti, director of consumer analytics for the U.S. Department of Education, believes that the earlier date will be very beneficial for students and their families. He said, “The earlier FAFSA start date should also give potential students and parents more time to consider their options for higher education, as well as the financial aid that they will receive to help reduce the cost of higher education.”
Guidance counselor Justine Meyer has mixed feelings on the the matter. She explained, “There are many pros and cons to this recent change. Guidance counselors like myself are trying to find more information about this change, but the most apparent reason seems to be [that] the government wants to provide as much aid to students as possible.”
Senior Devesh Permanan remarked, “I’m glad it’s earlier because this gives those who really need the money for college an advantage. I think the earlier, the better. Everyone should apply early because by not applying early, there will be less aid.”
Senior Kelly Rendon shares similar views. She said, “It’s better doing this early. It’s better to get [FAFSA] out of the way.”
Despite believing that this is a major advantage, Ms. Meyer also thinks having such an early registration for FAFSA will create certain issues. She commented, “The beginning of the school year is a very stressful time for seniors. By registering for FAFSA early, they have one more thing to worry about.”
She added, “The most important and best thing to do is start calling the financial aid offices of the colleges you want to apply to and ask them what the new FAFSA change will mean for them. Every college is different and will be perceiving this change differently.”
Senior Tiffany Weng agrees with Ms. Meyer in terms of the stress load on the seniors already. She stated, “I am very happy for the early registration because this means we will be getting more financial aid and then applying to colleges accordingly, but I still think this is very stressful. School has just started and before you know it, it will be time to apply for FAFSA.”
“The biggest challenge,” Mr. Pacchetti said, “will be to ensure that all students and families know they should file the FAFSA as soon after October 1, 2016 as possible.”
Seniors can start making their FSA ID right now. This ID will set up their account with Federal Student Aid and allow them to be ready to file for FAFSA on October 1, 2016.
Ms. Meyer strongly suggests that seniors and juniors attend the Financial Aid Night on November 1 to find out more information.