How To Qualify For Financial Aid - Federal financial aid applications now allow students to use existing federal tax returns, designed to inform families in advance of their aid eligibility. But student advocates say universities could be slowing student progress by forcing deadlines.
Student advocates say several changes to the federal financial aid process they have long advocated will help thousands of families who need federal aid pay for college.
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But these changes - immediately filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid with family income data already filed for tax purposes and releasing the requests several months in advance - creates uncertainty for universities and consulting professionals who want to study Works with contractors. These issues focused heavily on whether the university would meet financial aid deadlines so that students would receive award notifications as quickly as possible, a State priority.
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In previous years, high school seniors applying for federal student aid had to provide information about their household income for the previous year. This can be a challenge even as the March deadline approaches as many families don't pay their taxes until Tax Day in mid-April.
For the lowest-income students, this complicated the process and led to frequent verification of family income. The Department of Education believes that using the latest tax information filed by the student's family with the Internal Revenue Service, with the FAFSA filing date of October 1, is to provide more information for low and medium students. the process is easy. We need federal aid to pay for college.
Higher education groups see the FAFSA as a start to further simplify the financial aid process down the road.
Prior year income data, as the Tax Information Biennial is known, is a policy concept that began years before the federal student aid office in the department took the FAFSA data online. . The ideas were shared and considered for possible inclusion in the next authorization of the Higher Education Act. Late last year, however, the department announced it would choose to make the changes without action from Congress. Despite this change, the department moved two months from December 1 to issue the FAFSA.
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Education Secretary Ted Mitchell has urged colleges and universities to provide financial award notices to students earlier in the admissions process, so they can make better decisions about where they can register. In view of this, many government institutions have extended the deadline for priority funding until the beginning of November. Some colleges state that in order for students to receive an award notification as soon as possible, they need to receive a FAFSA form from the student in advance.
College admissions advocates say shortening the financial aid window for high school seniors could hurt low-income students who are already stuck applying. .
"We fully support the original FAFSA program," said Carrie Warrick, director of partnerships and policy for the National College Access Network, which advocates for low-income students. "What we're watching closely is how universities react to these changes. Our goal for the FAFSA first and foremost is to give students more time to go through the process, and if those deadlines are to be sent out in November, we are afraid, but it really shortens the whole admissions process.
NCAN has sought more information from the Department of Education on the financial aid deadline, joining several members of Congress who have raised concerns with college and university advocacy groups. university.
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Mitchell released a letter this week urging the foundation not to raise the priority grant date from last year.
Justin Drager, president and CEO of the National Association of Student Financial Aid Agencies, said colleges are experiencing "a little bit of backlash" from communications that encourage them to make financial aid decisions sooner rather than later. the application period.
"From a school perspective, I think you look at those two things and you seem to be left with opposite directions," Drager said. "From our point of view, it is to educate the students and allow the school to implement what is right for its residents."
These two groups are among several organizations that have welcomed the use of last year's income and the early release of the FAFSA. But they have different views on the potential pitfalls and difficulties of the new process.
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In some states, such as Arizona, each institution has a deadline for applying for financial aid. Student advocates say that can make it difficult to communicate a schedule that suits applicant families. A study published by the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers suggests that only a handful of colleges have decided to advance their financial aid dates to date. And although a separate study revealed that the number could be higher, it appears that the majority of universities that do so are educational institutions, often private, not for profit.
Drager said that while universities are required to announce student financial aid packages as soon as possible, some are expected to opt out by the deadline. Others must manage the state budget cycle that affects the institutional funding they receive.
The University of Akron, in Ohio, is moving the priority grant period from March 1 to December 1 this year. Jennifer Harpham, director of financial aid, said the earlier date allows the university to receive notifications about student offers and compare them to other institutions. But the deadline applies only to federal financial aid based on school-work-study and further education grants.
Harpham said she was surprised by how many seniors and parents found out about the new date during summer visitation days.
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Linda Jensen, director of the Arizona College Access Network, said different higher education advocates approach the FAFSA issue from different angles.
"Some people look at it as, 'Let's give students more time to submit their FAFSA.' Other people look at it as, 'Let's submit our FAFSA first and let the university collect it first. they will be able to make informed decisions about the amount of financial aid they will receive from the institution of their choice.''
Northern Arizona University has moved the financial aid priority period from February 15th to November 15th. Arizona State University moved its deadline from March 1 to January 1, while the University of Arizona kept its March 1 deadline.
The State College Access Network, which works with Arizona high schools as well as community organizations, responded to the previous deadline by encouraging high schools to consider admissions and fees as part of 'the holistic package of university activities for students. Consider applying for help. . The hope among higher education policymakers on all sides of the FAFSA issue is that this year's FAFSA data collection tool makes it easier to complete the application.
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And Jensen and other student advocates hope the process will be easier in the future. Many students fail to complete the FAFSA each year due to the burdensome verification process after students submit their family income information. For applicants targeted for verification, the financial aid office must request additional documents documenting the family's income and assets.
This process will not be completely free for all students. Both student advocates and financial aid officials hope that using last year's data will significantly reduce the number of problems that get applications for further review. Reducing these additional checks means less work for students' families and financial aid offices.
Today, the focus of many organizations - at the national, state and local levels - is to inform students of changes to the FAFSA process. David Hawkins, executive director of educational content and policy at the National Association of College Admissions Counseling, said each group reaches 800,000 students from the college market and informs families about the new process. in each round.
Political experts call this a transition year for the financial aid process. Administrators, elected officials, and the university itself must see to it that the new agenda works. Agencies that hold regular terms this fall may advance them next year. Hawkins said auditors will also look for potential side effects, such as reduced diversity on campus or fewer students from low-income backgrounds.
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NASFAA's Dreiger said this year could be the start of further streamlining the financial aid process — a step that may require congressional intervention in addition to the Department of Education.
"This is the first step in truly simplifying the application for financial aid. The creation of this smooth and seamless application process that is based on existing data and processes," he said. It can prevent the poor from proving that they are poor.
Drager noted that there was bipartisan support for entering last year's tax return data on the FAFSA before the Department of Education took over. The results of this first year
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