New Rules for FAFSA Coming

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Sep 01, 2016

While it is generally accepted knowledge that college costs are increasing at a rapid rate, the rate of increase has actually slowed over the last 3 years. However, the tuition, room and board at public universities generally exceeds $20,000 annually. The bill at private institutions is even higher.

With the increased cost, families have to carefully consider not just the academic merits of a university, but also the affordability. A recent procedural change should help families in the evaluation process.

Effective October 1, 2016, families who have students starting college in the Fall of 2017 can use income and tax information from the 2015 calendar year. This will allow families to file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (commonly referred to as the FAFSA) three months earlier than in the past. As a result, prospective students will receive estimated or actual award letters by institutions far earlier, although the timing of these letters could vary widely by institution.

This change in the deadline will put additional pressure on financial aid offices at higher education institutions. Not only will they be in competition to provide award letters earlier, they will be forced to continue recruiting prospective students over a longer period.

In aggregate, this is a positive for prospective students. They will have more time to evaluate the affordability of each institution. And while the new filing deadline will not eliminate the hassle of filing for financial aid, it will decouple the filing of the FAFSA from the filing of the current year’s individual tax return, an issue that has caused angst for parents for decades.

For assistance with your student’s FAFSA, please contact your financial representative or accountant. We are here to help!