By AMERICA ADAME, Ranger Reporter:
Recent changes in the financial aid process could help students. This year, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) became available three months earlier—moving from Jan. 1 to Oct. 1.
“The sooner students file, the sooner they will learn how much aid they’re getting,” said Kelly Prater, AC financial aid director. “The change will eliminate delays and will help students plan better. It will be good for students as well as the financial aid department,” Prater said.
In the past, the FAFSA application became available Jan. 1 of the upcoming award year, so the application for the 2016-2017 school year came out on Jan. 1, 2016 and was based on tax information from 2015.
This process gave a student eight months to submit the FAFSA, but the students often had to wait until their parents had filed income taxes. “Maybe the parents had asked for a tax exemption or had not filed their taxes yet,” said Prater.
Now, the 2017-2018 FASFA will be based on 2015 tax information.
“The change will positively affect students because they will be able to complete the process a lot sooner than before,” Prater said. “It will help eliminate barriers that would often cause delays in filing for aid.”
Prater said the earlier application opening will be especially important for students graduating from high school and those preparing to transfer from AC to a university.
“This change will allow them to be able to plan ahead better,” said Prater. “Because students know how much aid they qualify for, they will know which colleges and universities they can afford.”
Prater said the AC financial aid department is gearing up to spread the word about the earlier application availability.
The department will also increase its outreach efforts to help students through the FAFSA process. “We will be visiting high schools and holding application events on our campus,” Prater said. She added that she expects the change to have a positive effect on students. “It’s a good thing,” she said.