71 percent of University students affected by new “early FAFSA”

By Andrea Flores, Staff Writer

Seventy-one percent of students at the University rely on financial aid to fund their education. Yet this year sees a major change to the typical financial assistance application process.

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid, commonly known as FAFSA, has been available since Oct. 1 for the 2017-2018 school year. In the past, FAFSA opened  applications on Jan. 1.

Dan Mann, director of Student Financial Aid at the University, believes the change is positive for both students and families. This three-month change has been coined “early FAFSA” by the Department of Education.

“These changes are designed to make the financial aid application process earlier, simpler and more accurate,” Mann said.

For the early FAFSA, the income data must be from two years prior to the application year, or what is called “Prior-Prior Year.” For the 2017-2018 school year, students will need to use income data from 2015.

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    Officials claim the earlier income data makes it easier for families to fill in application forms with their already completed tax information. It will also be easier to import their income and tax information on the FAFSA from the IRS using the online Data Retrieval Tool, the DRT, Mann said.

    This change comes as a surprise to Alex Mackowiak, freshman in LAS, who echoed many students’ feelings that FAFSA doesn’t provide enough award money to students and instead offers loans.

    The early FAFSA would not have mattered to Mackowiak last year, as a college bound senior.

    “I don’t have much opinion on that though, because I didn’t get much, if any, money from FAFSA,” he said.

    The financial aid factor in the college application process plays a key role in the college application process, Mann said.

    “Students can now apply for financial aid at the same time that they are applying for admissions to college,” Mann said.

    Senior at Maine East High School, Jasmine Castro, knows how important financial aid is in deciding what university to attend next fall.

    “My sister and I will both be attending college, and we know our parents don’t have a great amount of money,” Castro said in an email.

    Castro’s sister, Alexis Vasquez, is currently a sophomore in LAS at the University. Castro is applying to six different colleges in the Midwest. The University is not one of them.

    “[Early FAFSA] just added more to my list. I had to think about what colleges I would be applying to and then getting the information I needed to fill out the form,” she said. “But I know that by the time January starts I’ll have some break from all this college stuff.”

    As a senior, Castro was well aware of the new early FAFSA. Her counselor made the change clear to her and other seniors.

    While college-bound seniors may have more on their plate this semester, applying to both colleges and their financial aid programs, Castro welcomes the change.

    “I think other seniors would have liked more time to think about colleges, but we know how filing the form in October will help us,” she said.

    However, Castro is excited to finish applying to colleges and financial aid programs.

    “After I’m done with the college application process, I will finally be able to enjoy my senior year.”

    The University alerts students via email about financial aid changes and deadlines.

    They additionally encourage students to apply for financial aid once FAFSA opens. To be fully considered in 2017-2018 for all financial aid program, students are advised to apply by Nov. 30.

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