The Daily Illini

FAFSA reforms old approach

By Dixita Limbachia

In an effort to make financial aid more accessible the University is one of eight schools that will adopt the U.S. Federal Student Aid office’s new application process.

In the past, prospective and enrolled college students filled out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, commonly known as the FAFSA, on or after Jan. 1. However, through much debate and persuasion, the Department of Education convinced Congress to revise the application process. Students will now begin the application process three months earlier, on Oct. 1. Students completing the FAFSA for the first time to receive aid for the 2017-2018 year will start the application on Oct. 1, 2016, rather than Jan. 1, 2017.

However, Dan Mann, director of student financial aid, said students currently on the 2015-2016 FAFSA cycle will complete the 2016-2017 FAFSA application in October and again after Jan. 1. Although the new process is supposed to make the application easier for students, Shanna Song, freshman in LAS said she thinks the first year might prove inconvenient for some.

“It seems unnecessary to apply twice but if there is a slighter and better advantage for receiving financial aid then I think most students will adjust,” she said.

Students will also now need to provide information on income tax the past two years instead of only one year past.

To make the process easier, the Federal Student Aid office created a new data retrieval tool which allows students to view their tax information from the IRS to help fill out the FAFSA.

The goal of the new tool is that it is simple enough for any one to use. Another highly touted aspect of the tool is there is no need to readjust the form if estimated numbers from the IRS are used. Additionally, because the tax information is taken directly from the IRS there is a smaller chance that students will get picked for verification. Certain students are randomly asked to provide verification about details on information such as their household size and income.

Mann said the department really aims to find the most successful direction for students and wants students to know about this new program.

“Our concern is that students understand that this is a good thing that’s going to happen, but it’s really two years away,” Mann said.

The University’s financial aid office is trying to make more people eligible for financial aid, he said. The department has also worked extensively with Congress and the White House about the benefits of the new approach.

Madison Gillespie, freshman in Media, said she is excited to use the new application process.

“I think it’s great. I know based on my own experience the current method seems way more extensive,” she said. “This new method makes the application much easier for students to be eligible and help students get the education they want. The whole college application process is so stressful and it seems like there is a push for a smoother transition.”

Mann said he believes the new process is a positive change that will help students and families.

“We’re committed to make our process match the new process and really be leaders in the country in terms of making it work,” he said.

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