By Hilerie Harris, marketing and communication coordinator, University Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid
Last year, President Barack Obama announced major changes to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, also known as FAFSA. Starting this week, on Saturday, Oct. 1, students can apply for financial aid earlier than before on fafsa.gov.
The biggest update will be that students and parents will use 2015 tax information for the application, instead of 2016 taxes. Most students and parents will already have their 2015 taxes completed and will be able to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool, which will directly import tax data into the FAFSA. According to the U.S. Department of Education, it takes, on average, 21 minutes to complete the FAFSA.
In previous years, students did not have a lot of time to complete the FAFSA and meet financial aid priority dates. Students that meet the University of Utah Feb. 1 financial aid priority date are considered for the maximum amount of aid programs, including need-based scholarships, grants and work-study. In the past, students and parents had to complete their taxes as soon as possible. Some students estimated their tax information in the FAFSA and were selected for a process called verification, which delayed financial aid awarding. Early FAFSA filing will allow students more time to complete the financial aid process by the priority date of Feb. 1 and hopefully cut down on the number of students selected for verification.
Prospective students will have an added benefit with the Oct. 1 date. They will be able to complete the FAFSA and the admissions process at the same time. This will help students and parents make a more financially sound decision when selecting a school.
The University Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid will hold open houses and workshops for the Early FAFSA in the upcoming months. For more information, visit financialaid.utah.edu/news/early-fafsa.php.
Learn how to get started:
HOW TO FILL OUT THE FAFSA
FINANCIAL AID MYTHS
HOW TO CREATE AN FSA ID