Changes to FAFSA policies, thanks to executive action by the Obama administration aimed at streamlining the financial aid application process, will allow students and families to learn both their aid eligibility and the true cost of college much earlier in the process. A column in The Chronicle of Higher Education applauds the changes as “a good and important step in the right direction.”
Previously, students applying for financial aid had to wait until spring of their senior year of high school—after they received an admission offer—to learn how much financial aid they would be eligible to receive, and how much they and their families would be expected to contribute. For some families, the cost of college (after aid was calculated) could come as an unpleasant surprise. The new regulations will enable students to file the FAFSA as early as October 1 of their senior year, using the previous year’s tax information. This will take effect with next year’s application cycle—so students applying for fall 2017 admission will be able to file their FAFSA as early as October 1, 2016, using 2015 tax information (rather than waiting until January of 2017). As a result, students and families will have much earlier access to the EIC—expected family contribution— as well as information about grants and loans. This will help applicants get a clearer picture—earlier in the process—of what the actual price of their target schools will be, and make more informed college choices.
In a process that can be very stressful for both students and parents, added transparency is a helpful step!
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