FAFSA for the 2017-2018 academic year now available courtesy of recent changes

Jeff Burnett, Staff Writer

Students are seeing new changes to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid application this semester, with an earlier submission date of the form and the ability to use the previous year’s tax information.

The submission date to file the FAFSA form has been changed permanently from Jan. 1 to Oct. 1, allowing students to complete the application three months in advance, unlike previous years.

The earlier submission date also allows students to receive a financial award letter sooner from their college or university, which will let them and their parents know how much funds they will be receiving for the following school year.

Carolyn Schloemann, director of financial assistance at UIS, said, “It’s going to be very helpful, I believe – specifically to incoming students – because it’s going to allow financial aid offices to get them an estimated financial aid package earlier than we had previously, which will help them be able to look at the cost of education.”

Another change to the form is that students and their parents will be able to submit their previous year tax returns known as “prior-prior year,” or PPY.

“Going to the prior-prior year actually is what allows us to open the FAFSA application earlier,” said Schloemann. “This way the tax information is already available.”

Applicants currently use the most recent or “estimate” tax return.

For example, if a student is applying for FAFSA in the 2017-2018 academic year, they would report their tax returns from 2015.

“This year, the FAFSA is available for completion earlier than ever before, and students and parents should take advantage of the extra time to complete the form using their 2015 tax data,” NASFAA President Justin Draeger said in a statement. “We’re hopeful that receiving information about student financial aid earlier will help families make better financial decisions and avoid unnecessary debt.”

UIS is a participating a member of the National Association of Student Financial Assistance Administrators (NASFAA), which is an advocacy group for financial aid professionals, and students receiving financial aid.

“The National Association of Financial Assistance Administrators has actually lobbied [sic] to kind of push this information through,” said Schloemann.

In 2015, President Barack Obama announced an initiative at a Des Moines, Iowa town hall meeting that would allow students apply for FAFSA earlier and also using the previous year’s tax returns.

“The bottom line is no young person in America should be priced out of college,” Obama said in a statement. “You have to fill out this form, and we are making it easier for you to do – you have no excuse.”

The announcement followed the president’s plan to make the FAFSA process simpler for students and their parents.

“It is very satisfying that another of our policy positions is going to be implemented,” Dan Mann, national chair of the NASFAA and director of student financial aid of the University of Illinois Urbana–Champaign, said in a statement. “The educators and administrators present were very excited about PPY and most were already thinking about how this will impact the timelines they now use and the changes they will need to make.”