FAFSA Change: October 1 = Financial Aid for 2017
Today I want to list some actions you can take now that will make life easier throughout the rest of this school year improve your financial aid awards. This information is immediately relevant to families with high school seniors or current college students. If your child is younger, you may want to get ahead by understanding the process now. Here’s the big news for 2016—the FAFSA application will open on Friday, October 1 this year. In the past families began the FAFSA in January while they tried to estimate their past year’s income tax information. Now you will use your already completed (hopefully!) 2015 tax return.
What is the FAFSA?FAFSA, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, is the first step in the process of obtaining need-based aid from colleges and universities. The FAFSA is a means of evaluation. Completing the FAFSA is like being let in the front door. It doesn’t award you any aid but it’s your first step in the right direction.
Who gets financial aid? Should we apply?Lots of people. Even middle-class and upper-middle-class families receive financial aid. Financial aid is based in part on your family income / assets. The other factor in determining financial aid is the cost the college or university your child ultimately attends. Financial aid is intended to cover the gap between the Expected Family Contribution (EFC) and the cost of a year’s education at a particular institution. A family with an EFC of $30,000 may not qualify for financial aid at a state university with an expected annual cost of $26,000. However, that same family would qualify for financial aid at the private university that costs $60,000 a year to attend.
How do we know if we qualify?
(Or, do we make too much money to apply?)There are some online tools to help you estimate cost and financial aid. A good resource is the FAFSA4caster Of course, a lot of the equation depends on your family’s final college choice which may not be determined for months. So the first step in the application process is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
How can you submit the FAFSA?You can save time and frustration by completing the FAFSA online at https://fafsa.ed.gov There is an option to complete a paper copy of the FAFSA, but you are more likely to experience delays and data entry errors if you send in a paper application. In this day and age, even for people who don’t have regular Internet access at home, it is well worth completing the online FAFSA even if you need to use a computer at the local library, university, or high school.
How do you apply?Step 1. You need to get a FSA ID which takes the place of the old pin number. This ID allows you to electronically access and sign your FAFSA application. The process should take less than 5 minutes and can be completed online at https://fsaid.ed.gov/npas/index.htm Once you have a FSA ID put it somewhere where you will be able to safeguard it, but where you won’t forget or lose it before it’s time to file. Step 2. Complete the FAFSA application. The window for submitting the FAFSA opens October 1st of a student’s senior year of high school. You will want to have these details handy:
- Social Security Number (or Alien Registration Number)
- 2015 federal income tax returns
- Bank and investment statements
- Records of any other income that may not be included on your tax return (untaxed income)