Contact: Allie Arcese
Managing Editor, NASFAA
WASHINGTON, DC, FEBRUARY 14, 2022 — For the millions of students who rely on federal financial aid to fund their college education, the sooner they know their aid eligibility, the better equipped they are to make vital college-going decisions. A new survey from the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA) shows students are beginning to reap the rewards of policy changes implemented five years ago.
Before the use of Early FAFSA and prior-prior year (PPY) tax information put into place by former President Barack Obama via executive action, students had to wait until January to apply for federal student aid for the upcoming school year, largely using estimated information since families wouldn’t file taxes for the prior year for several more months. This misalignment resulted in significantly more work for students and schools and meant that many families wouldn’t receive accurate financial aid information for weeks — or even months — into the new year.
Beginning with the 2017-18 award year, students were able to submit a FAFSA as early as October 2016 using income from 2015. More families could import tax information from the IRS directly into their FAFSA, easing the process for both students and schools. With more people completing the FAFSA earlier, the question remained whether schools would get financial aid offers out earlier.
According to the NASFAA survey, they are. Nearly half (44%) of institutions said they did or will send their first 2022-23 award year aid offers to first-time undergraduate students before February. By the end of February, 60% of institutions will have sent first-time undergraduates a financial aid offer.
“The benefits of Early FAFSA are coming to fruition, as students are able to apply for financial aid, and institutions are able to extend their aid offers sooner,” said NASFAA President and CEO Justin Draeger. “Knowing months sooner what to expect financially also levels the playing field for lower income students who might otherwise be left scrambling to make decisions on college attendance at the last minute. We still need Congress and the Department of Education to do their part, by completing federal appropriations on time and publishing final federal student aid amounts by November 1.”
The survey also found that the majority of schools are relying on technology — most often via their school portal — to notify students of their financial aid eligibility, as opposed to relying on a more traditional letter sent via postal mail.
“As lawmakers consider the best way to notify students of their financial aid eligibility, we should remember that most schools are leveraging technology to deliver vital information to students and families,” Draeger said. “Standardizing aid offers must leave enough flexibility for schools to deliver information that will be the most impactful to different student demographics.”
NASFAA has spokespeople available to speak to the implications of Early FAFSA and financial aid offers. To request an interview with a NASFAA spokesperson about findings contained in this survey, please email Managing Editor Allie Arcese.
NASFAA distributed a survey between January 14-21, 2022 to 2,621 member institutions on the timing and format of their financial aid offers, several years after changes made at the federal level allowed for students to submit their Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) sooner — and therefore make it possible for colleges and universities to make aid offers earlier.
Of those institutions, 427 surveys were submitted, resulting in a 16% response rate. Responses on the timing and format of aid offers are also broken out by institutional sector: nonprofit institutions, four-year public institutions, community colleges, proprietary institutions, and graduate/professional only institutions.
The National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA) is a nonprofit membership organization representing more than 32,000 financial aid professionals at nearly 3,000 colleges, universities, and career schools across the country. NASFAA member institutions serve nine out of every 10 undergraduates in the United States. Based in Washington, DC, NASFAA is the only national association with a primary focus on student aid legislation, regulatory analysis, and training for financial aid administrators.
Publication Date: 2/14/2022