What Counselors need to know about the 2017-2018 FAFSA

NACAC posted a 3 page tip sheet for Counselors about the new FAFSA. Here is a summary:

What’s changing for 2017–18?
Starting with the 2017–18 Free Application for Federal Student Aid(FAFSA®), these changes will be in effect:
•Students will be able to submit a FAFSA® earlier. Students can file a 2017–18 FAFSA as early as Oct. 1, 2016, rather than beginning on Jan. 1, 2017. The earlier submission date will be a permanent change, enabling students to complete and submit a FAFSA as early as October 1 every year.

•Students will use earlier income and tax information. Beginning with the 2017–18 FAFSA, students will be required to report income and tax information from an earlier tax year. For example, on the 2017–18 FAFSA, students (and parents, as appropriate) will report their 2015 income and tax information, rather than their 2016 income and tax information.

Why are the changes being made?

For many years, the FAFSA has been available for applicants to complete on January 1 for the following
school year; and the FAFSA has required income and tax information from the previous calendar year. Recent
research and the Department of Education’s own data suggest that implementing an earlier start date and
using earlier income and tax information may benefit students in the following ways:

•Alignment. For some students, the traditional FAFSA application cycle is not aligned with college
admissions application deadlines, which typically occur in the fall prior to the FAFSA launch. The new
financial aid application process will be more aligned with the college admission process for those students.

•Certainty. Many deadlines for state aid are as early as March. If the FAFSA asks for information about tax
forms that aren’t due until April 15, applicants have to estimate income or taxes paid in order to meet those
state deadlines. And unfortunately, many students and parents mistakenly think they are not able to file a
FAFSA until they file their tax return. This may cause students to miss certain federal, state, and/or
institutional financial aid deadlines. As a result of the change to requiring earlier tax information, more
students and families will be able to complete FAFSAs using data imported electronically from the IRS, rather than submitting applications with estimates that may need correcting later.

•Less pressure. Students and parents will have more time to explore and understand financial aid options
and apply for aid before state deadlines.

Will FAFSA deadlines be earlier since the application is launching earlier?

We expect that most state and school deadlines will remain approximately the same as in 2016–17.
However, several states that offer first come, first served financial aid will change their deadlines from “as
soon as possible after January 1” to “as soon as possible after October 1.” So, as always, it’s important that
students check their state and school deadlines so that they don’t miss out on any aid. State deadlines are on fafsa.gov
; school deadlines are on schools’ websites.

Since the 2017–18 FAFSA asks for the same tax and income information as the 2016–17 FAFSA, will a student’s 2016–17 FAFSA information be carried over into the 2017–18 renewal FAFSA?

No; too much could have changed since the student filed the 2016–17 FAFSA, and there’s no way to
predict what might be different, so the student will need to enter the information again. However, keep in
mind that many students and parents will be eligible to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool to automatically
import their tax information into the FAFSA, making the process of reporting tax information quick and easy.

Can a student choose to report 2016 information if the family’s financial situation has changed since 2015 taxes were filed?

The student must report the information the FAFSA asks for. If the family’s income has changed substantially since the 2015 tax year, the student should talk to the college financial aid office about the family’s situation.

Note: The FAFSA asks for marital status “as of today” (the day it’s filled out). So if the student or parent is
married now but wasn’t in 2015 (and therefore didn’t file taxes as married), the spouse’s income will need to
be added to the FAFSA. Similarly, if the student or parent filed 2015 taxes as married but is no longer married when filling out the FAFSA, the spouse’s income will need to be subtracted.

Will students receive aid offers earlier if they apply earlier?

Not necessarily; some schools will make offers earlier while others won’t. You might want to recommend that students look at the College Scorecard at collegescorecard.ed.gov to compare costs at different schools while they wait for aid offers to arrive. Note: The maximum Federal Pell Grant for 2017–18 won’t be known until early 2017, so keep in mind that even if a student does receive an aid offer early, the offer could change due to various factors.

How will this affect my school’s or organization’s fall schedule of outreach to our students about college preparation?

You’ll want to start FAFSA awareness activities as soon as possible once school starts. Although most state
and college FAFSA deadlines are expected to fall at about the same time as they did for the 2016–17 application cycle, there are some first-come-first-served programs that may award aid in the autumn and early winter. For that reason, you should encourage each student to create a username and password called an FSA ID in September, and then to submit his or her
FAFSA as soon as possible once the application is available.

•Learn about the FSA ID at StudentAid.gov/fsaid.

•Federal Student Aid is developing a suggested calendar of FAFSA outreach activities for the fall and will update this fact sheet once it’s available.

Note: If you wish to begin your outreach to juniors before the end of the school year, you should encourage
them to create their FSA IDs over the summer; and be sure to share some of the resources below with them

A PDF with all this information is available at from NACAC here – Counselors and Mentors: What you need to know about the 2017-2018 FAFSA

They also list some other available resources with links to help educate your students about what is new with the FAFSA