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What's new with regard to the financial aid application process for 2017-18?

There are several important changes to the financial aid application process for the 2017-18 school year. These changes will allow you to complete the application process much earlier. We strongly encourage you to do just that; complete the application process now and avoid the last minute stress of completing the forms during income tax season!

SUMMARY

WHAT IT MEANS TO YOU

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) will now be available each year on October 1st, three months earlier than in the past. (Previously, it was available on January 1st.)

The FAFSA for 2017-18 can be completed and submitted now at www.fafsa.ed.gov. You don’t have to wait until January.

(Note: The CSS PROFILE has always been available in October; it can also be completed and submitted now at https://student.collegeboard.org/css-financial-aid-profile.)

The income to be reported on the FAFSA and the CSS PROFILE will be the income earned two years prior to the application year. (Previously, it was the prior year’s income.)

The income to be reported on the 2017-18 aid applications will be the income earned in 2015.

  • This is quite helpful as most families completed their 2015 federal tax returns last April; this means they can complete the 2017-18 applications now using actual 2015 income amounts.
  • The FAFSA has the IRS Data Retrieval Tool which allows you to populate the taxable income fields on the FAFSA automatically from the IRS system.

The College Board’s Institutional Document   Service (IDOC) will now be available each year on November 1st, four months earlier than in the past. (Previously, it was available on March 1st.)

Because your 2015 federal income tax returns are already completed, you can upload them to IDOC much earlier, beginning on November 1, 2016. 

Note: Even if you uploaded a copy of your 2015 federal income tax returns for the current school year’s application process, you will need to upload it again for the 2017-18 year’s application process.

While our 2017-18 financial aid application deadline for returning students is May 15, 2017, we suggest that you complete the applications as early as possible. The FAFSA and CSS PROFILE are available as of October 2016, IDOC opens on November 1, 2016, and the income that must be reported is for the already completed 2015 tax year. Thus, it is possible to submit the forms now and put this task behind you. For details on our aid application process, including the required forms and deadline, visit How to Apply.

Q&A

When I applied for financial aid for 2016-17, the application required my 2015 income. Why is the 2017-18 financial aid application using the 2015 income again?

Last fall the federal government announced that the FAFSA would be available earlier (in October rather than January). In order for families to be able to submit the application earlier with accurate income information, the decision was made to use the income from two years prior to the year for which the student is applying for aid. Families will likely have already filed that year’s tax return which will make completing the form easier.

Before this change, the FAFSA used the prior year’s income. That is, for 2016-17 aid applications, the 2015 income was used. Now, with this change, the FAFSA will use what we’re calling “prior prior” year’s income. That is, for the 2017-18 aid applications, the 2015 income will be used. This will continue to be the process in future years. That is, for the 2018-19 aid applications, the 2016 income will be used and so on.

I uploaded my 2015 federal income tax returns when I applied for financial aid for the 2016-17 year. Do I have to upload them again?

Yes, you do need to upload them again via the College Board’s IDOC service, available November 1, 2016, in order for them to be available to us for the 2017-18 application cycle. We will not be able to access, for the 2017-18 applications, the documents you uploaded for 2016-17.

Since the aid applications for 2017-18 will use the same year's income (2015) as for the 2016-17 aid applications, does that mean my eligibility for financial aid will be the same?

Not necessarily. While income is a primary factor in the determination of aid eligibility, there are other factors that also affect eligibility for financial aid. These include the Cost of Attendance, family assets, the number in the family, and the number of children attending undergraduate school also affect the EFC. In addition, the need analysis formula is updated annually to use the most recent federal data available (such as the Consumer Price Index and the Consumer Expenditures Survey). Thus, while the same year’s income will be used for 2017-18 as was used for 2016-17, an individual student’s eligibility is subject to change.

If I submit my financial aid applications earlier, will I receive my financial aid award notification earlier?

In prior years, we have been able to provide financial aid award notifications to returning students in mid to late June. We are hopeful, if families begin to submit their aid applications earlier, that we can begin to review the applications earlier. This might mean that we could begin to send award notifications by the middle of May for those families whose applications are submitted between now and early January. We cannot guarantee that we will accomplish this but we intend to try!