Lisa Wendland from Wendland College Planning in Portland shares these tips for Financial Aid.
Dear Parents of Seniors:
As school is around the corner, I wanted to communicate some important changes to financial aid process for the class of 2017.
In previous years, the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) has opened up in January. Families would file using estimated tax information from prior year. Under this system, class of 2017 would have filed FAFSA in January 2017, using estimated 2016 tax numbers.(or actual if you are fast at filing taxes!)
This year, a major change is taking place. The FAFSA will open in October. Families will fill it out using PPY or “Prior Prior Year” numbers. This means you will complete the FAFSA using 2015 tax returns. The FAFSA may not be due in October but it is advisable to fill it out on the earlier side and to coincide with your student’s application deadlines.
What are the implications of this change?
- Colleges will award need based money based on actual numbers. There should be no need to revise numbers at the last moment. No amended FAFSA.
- It is possible that more students will apply early to schools. While finances should not drive this decision, some families may feel they will miss out on need based aid if their students wait until January to apply.
- Colleges are sorting through this change. While need based money could be awarded earlier than in previous years, I am not at all confident that this will happen for 2017. Typically need based aid is awarded by end of March for most schools.
Other things to note:
- Most private schools require other forms in addition to FAFSA. Many require the CSS Profile. Others have their own forms. Check websites of each school your student is applying to.
- All schools are required by law to offer a Net Price Calculator on their website. (NPC) If you are wondering about aid you may receive from a given school on your student’s list, find the NPC and complete it. (for each school)
- College Board announced last year that the CSS Profile form would also ask for PPY numbers. (so 2015 taxes)
- Need based aid (and student loans) require filling out FAFSA. Merit based aid generally does not require FAFSA but it depends on the school.
- It is important to look at each school your student will be applying to. Chart the forms required, due dates, and whether or not forms are required for merit awards. In most families, it is parents who take on this job.
- The Common Application asks students if they will be filing financial aid forms. If your student checks this box, it is important to apply. Similarly, if your student is not filing FAFSA, be sure this box is not checked
- Most financial aid offices are quite helpful. If you have a question, pick up the phone and call them.
- Experts have predicted that the change to FAFSA timing will make little difference in actual aid awarded, with the exception being that some families who previously were unable to file, due to not knowing how to estimate taxes, will feel more comfortable doing so.
- Oregon residents should consider filing the Oregon Student Access and Completion (OSAC) scholarship application especially if you feel you may qualify for need based funds. http://www.oregonstudentaid.gov/scholarships-timeline-deadlines.aspx Final deadline is March 1 but it is optimal to file earlier.
Where can I learn more?
- College Board/Big Future has a clear explanation of financial aid basics:https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/pay-for-college/financial-aid
- Federal Student Aid website: http://ifap.ed.gov/EarlyFAFSA/indexV1.html
- CSS/Profile information https://student.collegeboard.org/css-financial-aid-profile
- High school financial aid nights --check your high school calendar
- Comprehensive website that answers many questions and includes videos: https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/fafsa