FAFSA Changes: What You Need to Know

The government has announced changes to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), beginning with the 2017-2018 academic year. These changes will impact all incoming and returning college students, so here are the things you need to know.

What has changed?

  • Students will be able to submit a FAFSA earlier. The FAFSA will now be available to file on October 1 each year, rather than January 1 as in previous years. Students will be able to complete and submit a 2017–18 FAFSA as early as October 1.
  • Students will use earlier income information. Beginning with the 2017–18 FAFSA, students will be required to report income information from an earlier tax year. On the 2017–18 FAFSA, students (and/or parents) will report their 2015 income information, rather than having to estimate or wait until they file their 2016 income information.

Who will be affected by the changes?

These are permanent changes going into effect for the 2017-18 academic year, so it affects all incoming and returning college students.

How will this benefit me, as a new or returning college student?

Students can potentially benefit in a few ways:

  • More time to compare costs. When you file the FAFSA earlier, you will have more time available to review the financial aid award offers made from each college you applied to. This allows more time to understand your options and resources, and to compare bottom line costs before making a decision.
  • Most tax information is already available. Since the FAFSA is asking for older income and tax information, most individuals will have all of the required tax information prior to completing the FAFSA, as opposed to having to estimate information while your taxes are still in process. You will not need to estimate the tax information and update the application later.
  • Easily import tax info with the Data Retrieval Tool. Providing tax information from tax forms that have already been completed may allow you to use the Data Retrieval Tool to automatically import your tax information from the IRS. Using the Data Retrieval Tool reduced the risk of errors and makes it less likely you will have to provide further tax documents to the school later.

When should I complete the FAFSA?

File the FAFSA as soon as you are able! UNH uses the FAFSA when determining eligibility for Federal and Institutional aid, need-based grants, loans, and work-study funds. Money is limited in some instances, so don't delay. With the FAFSA available as early as October 1, you’ll now have five months to complete the form by the priority deadline of March 1! Filing after March 1 can limit the resources available to you.

Will other college application deadlines move earlier into the fall?

At this point, it's too early to tell how changes to the FAFSA will affect the admission application process. Currently deadlines will remain the same with a fall application deadline of April 1 and a commitment date of May 1.

When will I learn my financial aid eligibility?

If you are a new student and your financial aid file is complete, we will notify you about your award shortly after you have been admitted. Continuing students can expect to receive their financial aid awards in early spring.

My current 2016-2017 application requested 2015 tax and income information. Will this information carry over to the new application?

Since some of the information could have changed or you may have used estimated information, you will need to enter the tax and income information again. However, using the Data Retrieval Tool allows you to fill in some of the information automatically from the IRS records, reducing the information you’ll need to enter manually.

Can I choose to report 2016 information if my family’s financial situation has changed?

You must report the 2015 tax and income information as required on the FAFSA. If your family’s financial situation has changed substantially since 2015, you can notify the financial aid office to allow your application to be evaluated with more current information. If the family situation has changed since you filed the FAFSA (for example, as a result of a divorce or job loss), do not update the FAFSA but instead notify the financial aid office to discuss how to consider your family’s new situation and whether it will impact your eligibility for financial aid. Students wishing to provide update financial information can submit a Special Circumstance form to the Financial Aid Office with any corresponding documentation.

Learn more about the change in this quick video from the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA).