A Brave New World in 2017-18 By Zach Greenlee

Paradigm shift (noun) – a fundamental change in approach or underlying assumptions.

What better characterizes the changes to the FAFSA that are little more than a year away? President Obama, today, announced two crucial changes to the FAFSA process that not only changes the approach students have to the college search process, but also drastically changes the approach schools and governments will have to awarding students. The underlying assumptions I have about government’s willingness to make meaningful simplifications to applying for aid are out the window. What are these changes that are so earth shattering to the world of college financial aid?

  • Starting with the 2017-18 FAFSA, students will now be able to file three months earlier on October 1, 2016.
  • The tax year they will use to file the 2017-18 FAFSA will be the 2015 tax year.

Two words to summarize these changes: ease and accuracy. Students will find the process of filing a FAFSA easier to complete and they will have access to more accurate estimations of their aid upon completion of the FAFSA. Read more about the benefits of this major change in NASFAA’s Press Release.

Of course there are uncertainties surrounding some processes that have occupied so much of our time and diverted so many of our resources. What will become of the verification process? It stands to reason that the recent announcement ending ED’s Quality Assurance program signals a vital change to the approach of verifying student information. Also, many have been quick to conclude the move to prior-prior year (PPY) will increase the volume of professional judgment requests.

Let us count this major victory as the first of many in our fights to improve college access and help students make informed decisions about their education. Our work is set out before us. In this next year, we must prepare students and families for these changes so they are able to take full advantage of earlier filing. We must educate our administrations and colleagues on the barriers we will face in processing these applications sooner. To these ends, we have outlined a few resources below.

For Students:

For FAA’s

The White House’s Fact Sheet – for the general public

We all have a role to play, so we encourage your institution’s leadership to sign-on to NASFAA’s Prior-Prior Year Commitment and agree to align their institutional aid applications with PPY data in 2017-18.

The world of financial aid as we know it has certainly changed. Let us be hopeful that this is the first of many changes in bringing about a new paradigm in the Department of Education’s efforts. Congress, too, has a role to play in supporting these efforts, so finally, consider contacting your representatives to let them know they can sustain this momentum by putting their energies into reauthorizing the Higher Education Act.

akarlin on September 21, 2015 at 10:00 am said:
2016 will be a time of great change and opportunity for financial aid and our students! MASFAP will continue to provide training to our members and advocate for access for our students as we navigate PPY. It will be an exciting year!

GenaGena on September 16, 2015 at 6:48 pm said:
Great blog post, Zach! I really appreciate the links to the resources – this is going to serve as a good reference moving forward. I’m so proud of the work we have done to see these changes through to completion!

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