On Sept. 13, the Obama administration announced changes to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) intended to make the process of applying for financial aid simpler and more convenient. The changes include making the application available to students and parents on Oct. 1, closer to when many begin to apply for and enroll in college, rather than Jan. 1 of the following year. Additionally, the application will allow applicants to import tax information from two years before – the “prior-prior” year – instead of having to wait until they file taxes for the previous year.
MCC student Christina C., 20, expressed support for the revisions. “I definitely think it would be a lot easier if it were in October, because when January comes around, and you don’t know if you’re getting the sum you think you’re going to get, you’re like ‘What am I going to do?’,” she said. Patricia Peppin, director of financial aid at MCC, agreed with the changes as well, but expressed concern about whether or not schools would know how much federal funding they would receive before issuing financial aid awards. “The government still gives us funding at a certain time of the year, so… we may still have to wait till we get funding or till we know how much funding we’re going to receive,” she said. “If you apply in October, but we can’t get your file until February, that still doesn’t do us any good.”
Peppin also had reservations about the accuracy of the “prior-prior” tax information.
“(I)t may not give a good reflection of what that income is for that student or their parents. You might’ve had a really good job two years ago, might have been making $20,000 or $30,000 a year more, and now your income is different,” she said. Ultimately, however, Peppin said that the ability to file earlier would make it easier for students and administrators alike.
“(S)tudents could apply earlier, meet more deadlines, and maybe be awarded sooner, and that way they don’t get dropped when enrollment cancellations occur,” she said. “I’ll take anything, especially if it makes it better for the students.”