The U.S. Department of Education made a major change to the 2016-2017 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to encourage more students to fill out the application.
The FAFSA application was made available to students on Oct. 1 opposed to the former Jan. 1 launch date. In addition, students will be using tax returns from 2015 to complete the application.
“The goal of early FAFSA is to expand college opportunity by ensuring that students and families have more time to consider their college options with an understanding of the financial resources available to help them pay for college,” said Undersecretary of Education Ted Mitchell said in a letter sent to university presidents.
Some students, like senior Chelsea Crooke, think it’s a great idea to give students more time to fill out the complicated application.
“It’s more helpful because everyone procrastinates,” Crooke said, “And It’s probably less stressful for the students because FAFSA takes incredibly long to process.”
Executive Director of Financial Aid at VCU Marc Vernon said he hopes the increased period of time will encourage students to fill it out because without a completed FAFSA students are ineligible for financial aid.
Vernon said filing before the priority deadline on March 1 gives students a better chance of receiving the financial aid they need. State and university funds are limited, and once they are exhausted there is no more money to supply to students, according to Vernon.
“State aid is really limited and institutional aid is really limited,” Vernon said. “I don’t have a lot of money to give out based on the amount of students that we have that need financial aid.”
Previously, the federal due date for taxes being April 15, but the FAFSA priority deadline required completed tax returns by March 1. The new release date alleviates this problem because families will already have their taxes filed for 2015 by the October application opening.
There are additional steps students can take to make the application process easier, too. The Department of Education has included a link from the FAFSA application to the IRS using a data retrieval tool.
This tool can be found on the federal aid application and will temporarily direct the student or parent to the IRS site, where they will be ask a few authenticating questions. After that is done, the information from their selected tax year will be automatically transferred to the application.
Mary Lee Clark
Mary Lee is a senior studying journalism. She currently interns for RVAmag and GayRVA.com, in addition to writing for the CT. She previously worked as a makeup artist at Darkwood Manor, did lighting design at Trackside Theater (where she is now on the Board of Directors) and photographed for the Page News and Courier.
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