BY Nubia Reyna | THE RIDER
The 2017-2018 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) already is available, three months earlier than in previous years.
Additionally, students will use the 2015 income and tax information to fill out the application, according to fafsa.ed.gov. For example, on the 2017-2018 application, a student will report the 2015 income and tax information, rather than information from 2016.
The application became available on Saturday.
The changes were made because, in the past, even though students were encouraged to complete the FAFSA as early as possible, it was hard to do so because the application would not become available until January and the income information that they had to provide was from the current year, which most of them were barely going to complete in February, said Jael Garcia, UTRGV’s associate director of financial aid operations and community liaison.
“The reason it changed is basically because there was a disconnect when the taxes became available and when the FAFSA became available. … Now, it is using the income information from a prior year,” Garcia said.
Because the FAFSA will ask for older income tax and information, students will already have done their tax returns by the time they fill out the FAFSA, the fafsa.edu.gov states.
“It should benefit the students because now they really can do their FAFSA a lot earlier,” Garcia said.
Students are going to be able to use IRS data retrieval, which on the FAFSA, allows them to input information directly from their tax return into the application, she said.
“If the income changes, let’s say that the income for 2016 is significantly lower than the income for 2015, in that case, in the financial aid administration, there has always been an opportunity to where students and families can talk to a financial aid adviser and then based on the information, the financial aid adviser can make a change to the FAFSA,” Garcia said.
She encourages students to try to complete the FAFSA as soon as possible.
“With the financial aid process, completing the FAFSA is not the end of the process, it is only the beginning, meaning that many times students have to submit additional documentation, and so then the process can become quite lengthy,” Garcia said.
The earlier students start the process, the more time they will have to take care of anything that they need to take care after the FAFSA, she said.