Financial Aid Changes are Coming for the 2017-2018 School Year

What is Changing?

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid, also known as the FAFSA, is the application that students must complete to apply for federal student aid. Federal student aid includes Federal Pell Grants, federal student loans and work study opportunities. Two major changes to the FAFSA will take effect for the 2017-2018 school year. (The 2017-2018 school year runs from July 1, 2017, through June 30, 2018.)

  1. The FAFSA will be available earlier (October 1 of the previous school year instead of January 1 of the upcoming school year).
    Currently, students cannot complete a FAFSA for the upcoming school year until January 1. For example, for the 2016–17 school year, an applicant cannot complete a FAFSA until Jan. 1, 2016. Beginning with the 2017–18 school year, applicants will be able to complete a FAFSA as early as October 1 of the previous year. (See table.)
  2. The FAFSA will collect income information from an earlier tax year.
    The second major change also begins with the 2017–18 FAFSA cycle. Currently, in addition to other information, FAFSA applicants (and their parents, if applicable) must report the prior year's income information. For example, for the 2016–17 school year, applicants must report income information for 2015—the tax year before the beginning of the school year. Beginning with the 2017–18 FAFSA, students will report income information from two years prior, which in this case is 2015 income information—two tax years before the beginning of the school year. (See table.)

Here's a summary of the changes.

When a Student is Attending College (School Year) When a Student Can Submit a FAFSA Which Year's Income Information is Required
July 1, 2015-June 30, 2016 January 1, 2015-June 30, 2016

2014

July 1, 2016-June 30, 2017 January 1, 2016-June 30, 2017

2015

July 1, 2017-June 30, 2018 October 1, 2016-June 30, 2018

2015

July 1, 2018-June 30, 2019 October 1, 2017-June 30, 2019

2016

How will an earlier FAFSA and the change to the income year benefit students?

Benefits include the following:
Alignment. The financial aid application process will be more aligned with the college application process.
Certainty. Students (and their parents, if applicable) will not need to estimate income information.
Less pressure. There will be more time for students to explore and understand financial aid options and apply for aid before state and school deadlines.

Will colleges change their financial aid processing timelines due to the FAFSA being available earlier?

Whether a college changes its financial aid processing timelines when the FAFSA becomes available on October 1 is a decision that each college will make. Finger Lakes Community College will be moving up our priority deadline from March 15 to December 15 to encourage all students to take advantage of the earlier timeframe. All students should try to meet this earlier deadline to be considered for all financial aid (some aid is limited), but they may still apply for financial aid after December 15.

Do students still have to complete the FAFSA every year?

Yes. Because eligibility for federal student aid does not carry over from one school year to the next, students will need to fill out the FAFSA for each school year in which they plan to be a student. Eligibility for financial aid can differ from year to year for various reasons, including a student's or family's financial situation and the number of family members enrolled in college.

Do families need to complete their taxes before they fill out the FAFSA?

No. If students (and their parents, if applicable) are required to file taxes, they do not have to complete their taxes before they fill out the FAFSA. Considering that many state and college FAFSA deadlines currently fall before the April 15 tax deadline, applicants have been allowed to provide estimated income information. Example: The 2016–17 FAFSA will ask for 2015 income information. If applicants estimate income, they will need to log back in to the FAFSA once their 2015 taxes are complete and correct any information that needs to be corrected.

Beginning with the 2017–18 FAFSA, students will report income information from two years prior, which in this case is 2015 income information. Considering that the 2015 tax filing deadline is April 15, 2016, and the 2017–18 FAFSA will become available on Oct. 1, 2016, applicants are very likely to have completed their taxes before October 1, and the tax information would be available to be reported on the FAFSA.

How does information transfer from the IRS to the FAFSA?

The IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT) allows applicants (and their parents, if applicable) to access the IRS tax return information needed to complete the FAFSA, and transfer the required information directly into the FAFSA from the IRS. The FAFSA includes a link to the IRS if an applicant is eligible to use the IRS DRT. FLCC highly recommends that families use the IRS data retrieval tool when completing the FAFSA. This is the easiest and most accurate way to complete the FAFSA!

Can a student still be selected for verification if he or she is using 2015 income information on his or her 2017–18 FAFSA?

Yes. A student can be selected for verification by either the U.S. Department of Education or by the student's school. Verification is a process by which a student is required to submit documentation that the data reported on the student's FAFSA is accurate. The Financial Aid Office at FLCC may make corrections or updates to the student's FAFSA based on the documentation provided as part of the verification process.

What about TAP (Tuition Assistance Program)?

TAP is a New York State grant for residents attending NYS institutions full-time. To apply for TAP, students must first complete the FAFSA. On the confirmation page of the FAFSA, you will see a link (in red) to the TAP application. The TAP application will use income information from the same year as the FAFSA. For example, students may submit both the 2017-18 FAFSA and TAP applications beginning October 1, 2016 using 2015 income. All TAP awards will be estimated until the NYS budget is passed and income amounts have been verified with NYS tax records.