Upcoming changes to FAFSA


After years of discussion, changes to the FAFSA—or the Free Application for Federal Student Aid—have arrived for students at SLU and across the country. While students still need to file a FAFSA every year, SLU expects to now provide award letters on Feb. 1, which is an earlier date than previous years. For this year—which serves as a transitional year—income information for 2015 will be used for both the 2016-17 and 2017-18 academic years. Now, more than ever, income information must be accurate, and conflicting information will need to be resolved for both years.

Shawn McCaw, the assistant director of student financial services assures that, “If a family financial situation has changed significantly from 2015 to the current, the family can submit directly to Student Financial Services a review for special circumstances.” Even in this instance, the FAFSA should still be completed as stated, and then followed up with a notification to Student Financial Services. McCaw recommends filing as soon as possible in order to maximize all aid eligibility.

McCaw believes that “Most everyone stands to benefit from the FAFSA changes. Using completed tax information gives families the advantage of having actual data when completing the FAFSA, and consequently more accurate information, which means less updating and errors.

Schools stand to benefit again with more accurate information and the ability to engage earlier in the application process. The federal government should benefit by fewer transactional changes and more controlled spending levels.”

In order to review and verify information as required before issuing any notification to students, the start date for FAFSA submission has been bumped up from Jan. 1 to Oct. 1 of the previous year.

For this first time, students have been able to file the 2017-2018 FAFSA since Oct. 1, 2016. This allows extended time for students and families to “confirm and understand financial requirements and options,” according to McCaw. A key point for Missouri residents is that the need-based grant offered to state residents, the Access Missouri grant, has a deadline of Feb. 1.

Now, with PPY (Prior-Prior Year) income data, families no longer have to use estimated financial information when filling out a FAFSA. McCaw explains that with less changes to records that have already been submitted and “less need for additional verification of data,” there is simply a lower risk of missing deadlines.

Information can now be directly transferred from the IRS form to the FAFSA form. There is no longer a need to submit an initial application and then updates or changes later, after tax information has been filed. The process is now simplified and updates become unnecessary, decreasing paperwork and the potential for error and subsequent delays.

To facilitate the pulling of information from the IRS form to the FAFSA form, students and parents can use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool to pre-fill the answers to at least some questions on the FAFSA.

For both parent and student, the retrieval tool will transfer the filing status, type of tax return filed, adjusted gross income, income earned from work, income tax and IRS exemptions. This has the potential to not only save time, but also reduce errors.

McCaw notes that tax extensions and IRS identity theft will, in fact, exclude an individual from being eligible to use the data retrieval tool, but the great majority of filers can, and should, use the time-saving and error-preventing tool.

Students and families that have questions on the FAFSA should call Student Financial Services staff at 314-977-2350, or visit the office in DuBourg Hall, room 121. Assistance is also offered over email at [email protected] SLU has already received more than 3,000 FAFSA records to date.

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