FAFSA changes to benefit students

This year the start date to file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid moved to an earlier date.

As of Oct. 1 students were able to fill out the application, a date three months earlier than previous years. In the past students were able to begin filing FAFSA Jan. 1 and the tax returns from the previous year were used.

Now the tax returns from two years prior to filing will be used. Students filing for 2017-18 aid will use their 2015 income.

Mary Harper, director of student financial assistance, said the changes will benefit not only new and prospective students, but continuing students as well.

She said it will give students more time to prepare finances for college.

“I think it is a very positive change for students,” Harper said. “I think it will encourage more students to file their FAFSA.”

FAFSA also can impact sources of aid that are not federal. Harper said she believes more students file and be eligible for state aid.

Students who are 21st Century scholars should not be affected much by the new dates, but Harper said it could help them as well.

The March 10 deadline for 21st Century scholars will be the same.

Harper said in the latest data she has, from the 2015-16 aid year, 75 percent of students received some sort of aid.

She said the financial aid office has received some calls about the changes, but it has mostly been from new and prospective students.

Harper said the office sent an email out to students so they would be aware of the changes. The website also offers a section with answers for any questions students may have about the process.

“We’ve been proactive in encouraging early filing,” she said.

Harper said students should visit the financial aid website for more information regarding FAFSA and the filing process.