Parents and financial aid are two of the biggest drivers behind many students getting through college, and chances are, if you're the parent of a high school or college student, you've heard of the FAFSA. It's the form used by the Department of Education and your student's college or university to determine your eligibility for financial aid.
Recently, the Department of Education announced two significant changes to the FAFSA. The first change affects the submission period; beginning October 1st of this year, you can start submitting your FAFSA for a student attending college in the fall of 2017. This adds three extra months to the FAFSA submission period for each school year. To reiterate, the 2017/2018 FAFSA will be available for submission beginning October 1st, 2016, and it's due July 30, 2018.
The second change affects the personal tax data you use to complete your FAFSA. Beginning this fall, the Department of Education wants you to use older tax information on your application; your 2015 tax return will be used for the 2017/2018 FAFSA period mentioned above. This probably sounds a bit strange to folks who completed a FAFSA for 2016/2017, but it's true -- the same tax information will be used to determine your eligibility for two consecutive school years.
This second change is especially important for taxpayers who retired in 2015 or 2016 and have children in college. If you were expecting lower income in retirement than when you were working, you might have to wait an extra year before the financial impact of that income affects your eligibility for financial aid. That said, your student's financial aid office has the ability to assess your financial situation and make adjustments to your FAFSA after you've submitted it, so be sure to contact them if you retire or experience another change in employment.
If you have any questions in light of these changes, check out this post on the Department of Education's blog for another explanation, or contact us, we're happy to help!