Major Financial Aid Changes Coming Soon
You may have heard about some of the changes in the works when it comes to the college financial aid and admissions processes.
In September, the White House signed an executive order to change some important deadlines for financial aid, which will mean a big difference in the way parents are able to plan for college costs.
One major problem that families have had to deal with for many years is that the college admissions season doesn’t really match up with the tax season. With applications due in the fall, and tax returns not done until spring, this has meant families often have to wait for weeks (or even months) after applying to colleges before they find out how much financial aid they will be receiving, as some financial aid is based on information from parental tax returns. This means that students sometimes wouldn’t find out that their aid award would fall short of what they had expected until it was too late to apply to more colleges.
Even when students filed their FAFSA forms early (January 1 of the Senior year is the first date to file), updates to parental tax returns in April have meant that financial aid awards could be lowered after the student had already committed to the school, leaving the family with an unexpectedly large college bill.
If this process seems backwards, that’s because it is!
Luckily, the new changes to the financial aid calendar will streamline the application process and provide some relief for families with children preparing for college.
The first stress-reliever is that, beginning with the 2017-2018 school year, students will be able to apply to college using two-year-old tax returns. For example, if a student is heading to college in the fall of 2017, they can use their parents’ 2015 tax return on their financial aid forms. This will simplify the process as well as reduce the rush for parents to get their taxes done early and file estimates which will then need to be updated later.
The second major change is that the initial FAFSA filing date will be moved from January 1 to October 1 of the student’s Senior year in high school. This means that families may be able to receive aid packages much sooner in the admissions process, and will have more time to make smart financial decisions.
This also means, however, that the already busy fall season will get even more hectic for high-school Seniors, adding FAFSA forms on top of college applications, essays, college visits, and final test-taking.
While the new process may help relieve some stress and worry in the financial planning aspects of preparing for college, it makes it more important than ever to plan ahead, and make sure that students are being proactive in their earlier years of high school, and not waiting until the last minute to make decisions on school choices, majors, and career planning. By having some of these things out of the way before the Senior year hits, students and parents will be better equipped to handle the number of things that will need to happen very quickly once the fall semester starts.
For help with some of this advance planning, contact our college planning team at 614-536-0246.