FAFSA Strives to Be More User-Friendly

The Obama Administration released a statement Sept. 13 announcing the implementation of two major changes to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, also known as FAFSA.

Effective for fall 2017, the FAFSA will become available three months earlier on Oct. 1 and applicants will be able to report tax information filed from an earlier year instead of estimating yearly income or waiting until the end of tax season.

The FAFSA is used each year by college students to apply for more than $150 billion of aid available in the form of loans, work-study and grants. The current FAFSA application opens on the first of January each year for aid to be distributed in the following fall semester. This timeline is not aligned with the deadlines used by many colleges in their application cycles which presents hurdles for college students, said the White House.

“Learning about aid eligibility options much earlier in the college application and decision process will allow students and families to determine the true cost of attending college — taking available financial aid into account — and make more informed decisions,” the statement said.

The new FAFSA will also feature the option to utilize tax information filed from two years ago. Currently, applicants are asked to either estimate income and asset information or wait until they have filed their taxes in April. According to the Obama Administration, this results in an inefficient use of resources, as has been seen in past FAFSA cycles.

“In recent years, colleges and universities have spent as many as 3 million total hours each year verifying FAFSA information, including income and other tax return data.” By adjusting the FAFSA, “these colleges and universities will be able to avoid much of the burden of verifying tax return information when students apply using data retrieved directly from the IRS,” the White House said in its statement.

With the implementation of these two key changes, the Obama Administration hopes that more students will take advantage of the funding that is available.

At Glendale College, the new FAFSA will affect the many students who receive financial aid. “It could help the students of GCC if in fact they haven’t filed their taxes for the year. There wouldn’t be a delay in getting their financial aid,” said Brad Hardison, interim associate dean of student financial aid services.

Mayleth Lopez, a first-year student at GCC majoring in business, welcomed the new changes and said it will make for a much less confusing application.

“It gives us more time to get everything done and receive the documents because a lot of people leave things to the last minute. This is a lot more convenient,” Lopez said.

The college will take the proper measures to inform students about the changes. To avoid confusion, more information will be released closer to the date of implementation.

“We will notify students through articles in the student paper and online portals,” said Hardison. The new FAFSA will become available Oct. 1, 2016 for financial aid to be delivered in fall 2017.