It’s a good week in the world of financial aid! Earlier this week President Barack Obama announced that some significant changes are being made to the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) in hopes of making it an easier process.
Anyone who has filled out the FAFSA can tell you that once you reach the third or fourth page and it starts asking for your driver’s license number, parent’s gross income from the previous year, etc. things can get confusing and difficult very quickly. That’s not even including the oddly timed deadlines in mid spring and significant amount of time it takes to fill it out! Hopefully, all of that will be changing very soon.
Earlier File Dates Mean Less Stress
Beginning in 2016, it should be a far easier process to file the FAFSA. For one thing, applicants will be able to file earlier. The FAFSA will now be available in the fall rather than the spring. There’s a big plus to this new, earlier deadline: you can use tax information from two years prior. Yes, that’s right, you will no longer have to have filed taxes from the previous year to fill out the FAFSA. In the past, students have had to wait to file the FAFSA until after their family’s taxes had been filed, which meant that many of the deadlines for other aid had already passed.
Earlier Response Means More Scholarships
Being able to file earlier and with earlier tax information means that applicants will be eligible for more scholarships, due to the earlier deadline. Previously, by the time students heard their results from the FAFSA, many of the other scholarships and financial aid sources had already been distributed and were no longer viable options. Moving the application deadline back to the fall allows more time for families to crunch numbers and look for other aid sources before the school year began. The deadline, in the past, had drastically limited options for many families in the US.
Easier Process Means Easier Access to Available Aid
A study was done on the number of students filing the FAFSA, and results showed that in 2011-2012 nearly two million undergraduate students simply didn’t file the FAFSA. These two million undergrads subsequently missed out on nearly $10 billion of federal Pell Grant aid, and $3 billion in additional state and school funding. Making the process simpler will allow for more students to get the funding they need to further their education.
As well as moving the deadline back and allowing for earlier tax information to be used, the online application process has been edited to implement skip logic and IRS retrieval, which means that the completion time to fill out the forms has dropped to about 20 minutes, rather than what it used to be: over an hour. This alone has been a vast improvement, but the White House is still pushing for more improvements, including the possible removal of up to 30 questions the FAFSA requires. This would further cut down the time it takes to complete it.
With all these changes in progress, by this time next year it should be easier than ever to access and take advantage of federal financial aid to the fullest! Better access to funding means a higher graduation rate, less overall student debt, and an all around win-win! Happy funding!
About the author
Trinya’s passion for helping others understand student loans started when she began learning all she could to fill in what she didn’t know about her own loans. She enjoys speaking at local schools about the cost of college and assisting friends with their finances. In her free time, Trinya also enjoys reading, writing, and playing music.