With every new semester comes deadlines and questions about financial aid from current and future students. At Mesa Community College (MCC), 45 percent of students are receiving FAFSA or some sort of aid.
“Last year we paid out 40 million dollars worth of financial aid and scholarships,” said Pat Peppin, Director of Financial Aid at MCC. “So out of the $40 million probably $3 million of it- $3 to 4 million of it is scholarships and the rest is financial aid.”
While there are so many who take advantage of scholarships and FAFSA, many students are still confused about deadlines, eligibility, and how financial aid works.
Financial Aid has even become available online to make the process simpler. Online, students can sign up for FAFSA, read messages in their MCC Student Center and can also submit important tax papers.
“Every year the government tries to make it simpler. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t,” Peppin said.
FAFSA has made their system online so that students can log into the IRS website to find their tax records for proof of income and can also upload tax documents for reapplication.
“The bad part about that is last year the IRS was hacked,” said Pat Peppin.
The system breach shut down the IRS DRT which is the IRS Data Retrieval Tool used by students to upload forms for application. DRT also allows students and parents who filed a tax return to easily access those returns needed for FAFSA.
IRS and FAFSA were prompted to change the DRT system in order to protect students’ private information. This also changed the requirements from students, which caused confusion in application or reapplication.
“Last year they were able to turn in the regular tax papers but, we cannot accept them by law this year. Either, they have to use the DRT or they have to attain transcripts from the IRS,” said Peppin.
This is why FAFSA deadlines are crucial. Students who apply last minute are in trouble of not receiving aid due to constant changes of what is needed to apply or reapply.
Financial Aid is available for next year, 2019-20, starting October 1 in an attempt to give students ample time to collect the appropriate documents and tax information.
“I think the IRS information thing has complicated things quite a bit. So, hopefully, next year when DRT is functioning correctly there won’t be so much confusion for the students,” Peppin said. “(Financial Aid) It’s based on taxpayers’ money. So, the government says, if you’re not paying your taxes then why should we give you taxpayers’ money.”