Each year about 2 million students who would be eligible to receive a Pell Grant do not fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), according to the Department of Education (ED). The FAFSA is the first step in determining what a family can afford to pay “out of pocket” and what types and amounts of federal aid–grants and loans–they are eligible to receive.
While many students and families fail to start or complete the FAFSA, it’s a crucial piece in the puzzle of determining which school will best fit their budget and goals. The FAFSA isn’t just a gateway to billions of dollars in federal student aid – state governments and some colleges and universities also use information from the FAFSA to determine how much state or institutional financial aid a student is eligible to receive.
As students complete the FAFSA, NASFAA has newly updated resources to help students and families estimate how much or what types financial aid they’ll receive, and make college more affordable by cutting costs in other ways. NASFAA also has information on myths about financial aid, tips for filling out the FAFSA, and common mistakes to avoid.
2016 also holds some important changes to place on your planning calendar. In September, President Barack Obama took executive action to allow the use of prior-prior year income data on the FAFSA. In past years, students and families have been able to apply for federal student aid for the following academic year starting in January using their income from the prior year. But with the use of prior-prior year income data, the FAFSA application will be available sooner, in October 2016, rather than January 1, 2017. In October, students will be able to use two-year’s prior tax data on their FAFSA, and find out earlier how much aid they can expect to receive.
The means some college students returning for the 2017-18 academic year will be filling out the FAFSA twice in one year – once this winter for the 2016-17 academic year, and again in October for the 2017-18 year. It also means rising college students entering as freshman in 2017-18 can get the financial aid application process rolling months earlier than in the past–allowing for critical planning and saving time.
“Applying for financial aid can be an added stress for students and families during the college decision-making process,” said National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrator (NASFAA) President Justin Draeger. “But soon, applicants will have a more accurate picture of their financial aid awards earlier, through the use of prior-prior year income data, a move long called for by NASFAA.”
NASFAA’s experts are on hand to discuss why filing the FAFSA correctly is critical, as well as steps policymakers can take to make the process even simpler in the future. To speak to a NASFAA expert, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 202-785-6959.
The National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA) is a nonprofit membership organization that represents more than 20,000 financial aid professionals at nearly 3,000 colleges, universities, and career schools across the country. NASFAA member institutions serve nine out of every ten undergraduates in the United States. Based in Washington, D.C., NASFAA is the only national association with a primary focus on student aid legislation, regulatory analysis, and training for financial aid administrators. For more information, visit www.nasfaa.org.
Publication Date: 1/22/2016