The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) application is now available for students starting Oct. 1 each year, due to changes made by the Obama administration in 2015.
Previously, the application opened up on Jan. 1. This deadline came before students and families were filing their taxes in April, which created some conflict when it came to putting the most recent tax information into the application, according to Dameion Lovett, campus director for financial aid.
“So, the way that it has been working for the last number of years is that the FAFSA, when it came out in January, required the tax information for the prior year,” he said. “But the majority of individuals did not have their taxes completed in January because they were due in April and so what this change allows everyone to do is use the tax information from two years prior.
“So, going forward, right now for (academic year) 2017-18, all of the individuals have their taxes filed already because it was for last year and so they can just go out and complete the application and have it completed for the next year, early.”
In addition to the change of deadline, the FAFSA changes allow students and families to use tax information from two years prior in order to fill out the application.
For example, according to the U.S. Department of Education, those submitting a FAFSA for the 2017-18 school year will use tax information from 2015 for the application. Next year, when submitting the FAFSA for the 2018-19 school year, tax information from 2016 will be used.
The federal deadline for the FAFSA, June 30, has not changed, according to the U.S. Department of Education. However, the USF priority deadline for financial aid has shifted from its original March 1 date to Jan. 1, according to Lovett. He encourages students to apply early in order to get some of the first-come, first-serve financial aid funds the university gives out each year.
“So, for instance, since the application is out now, if a student waits until June, July or even August to file their FAFSA for 2017-18, there is absolutely no guarantee of what they’re going to be able to receive outside of student loans and it costs a lot more money to attend … than student loans will cover,” he said.
The 2017-18 FAFSA requires 2015 tax information, meaning that 2016 tax information cannot be used even if there were significant drops in income, according to the U.S. Department of Education.
Lovett thinks the change will be a positive one but will require some slight adjustments for Financial Aid Services at USF to get used to.
The change will also help with the admissions process, Lovett said, because it allows for students applying to USF to be admitted and fill out their FAFSA at the same time.
“We will be able to get them financial aid award information basically three months earlier than they used to receive it, so there won’t be as big of a gap between when they get admitted to the university and receive an offer of financial aid, and so for the university it makes it a lot better for recruitment purposes if the students know how much money they’re going to be receiving in financial aid funds to be able to attend,” Lovett said.
Lovett mentioned the IRS Data Retrieval Tool, which pre-fills some of the answers on the FAFSA using the family’s tax information from the IRS, which he encouraged students to use as it allows for fewer mistakes when filling out the FAFSA.
Lovett said Financial Aid Services at USF is planning to send official communications to students soon. Currently, Financial Aid Services at USF has promotional materials such as posters outside of its office advertising the change and plans to also send out information to students through its social media platforms.
Students who want to fill out their FAFSA can do so now at fafsa.ed.gov.
“It’s a pretty big change but you know it’s one that we welcome and for students that are applying now they basically will have the peace of mind in knowing that they have their financial aid application done and they don’t have to do it again until this time next year,” Lovett said.