What Do YOU Think of the New FAFSA?
Find out whether the new changes are paying off for students.
By Kathryn Knight Randolph
November 29, 2016
It has been nearly two months since the new FAFSA launched. The form – formerly made available in January – made its debut for the 2017 – 2018 academic year on October 1. It’s also the first form for which previous previous year tax returns can be used, i.e. tax returns for 2015 can be used for the 2017 – 2018 FAFSA.
It used to be that you would have to guess your tax return information in order to file the FAFSA – or wait until after your taxes were filed in April, which meant losing out on financial aid dollars for states that disperse on a first come, first serve basis.
The new FAFSA enables students to fill out the form sooner, which lines up better with the college application cycle and ensures that applications will meet state FAFSA deadlines, as well as provides a more accurate picture of your family’s financial circumstances thanks to the previous previous year’s tax returns.
So how is it working?
The New York Times reports that high school students seem to be embracing the new changes. Compared to January, the number of FAFSA applications filed since the October 1 launch has seen a 21% increase. It’s also worth noting that the number of FAFSA forms filled out but not yet signed also saw an increase, according to The New York Times.
It would seem, so far, that the earlier release as well as the change in necessary tax return info is working to the advantage of high school students. It will, however, hurt those students that don’t get the “memo” on the change, especially in those states that give out aid on a first come, first serve basis. But those results are yet to be seen.
And while it does alleviate some issues to filing the FAFSA, it doesn’t help in every circumstance. According to NPR, website glitches, typos and modern family circumstances, like custody battles and living with relatives other than Mom or Dad, make the form just as difficult as ever despite the government’s attempts to simplify. Thankfully, there are many resources that students can utilize for help.
First, check out Form Your Future. It presents a helpful how-to guide for filling out the FAFSA in terms that you can actually understand. Fastweb also has plenty of resources to help make the FAFSA easier to complete. And if you’re feeling completely overwhelmed, you can meet in person with a FAFSA expert in your community or on College Goal Sunday, a national day set aside to help as many students as possible submit the FAFSA.
The FAFSA may not be a seamless process, but it’s getting there. Hopefully, these new changes are just the tip of the iceberg, and the FAFSA becomes one less form you have to stress about during the college admissions process.
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