Saturday, October 3, 2015

Changes In The FAFSA: What Every High School Counselor Should Know

Saturday, October 3, 2015


I applaud the president's announcement to change the structure of financial aid for students entering college.  My only complaint is that my family will not be able to benefit from this change (waahhhh!).  Well, enough of my whining...back to the changes.  The president decided to make changes to the FAFSA process for the following reasons:
  1. To align the financial aid process to the college admission process.
  2. To take the pressure off parents to quickly prepare their tax return.
  3. To alleviate the need for families to estimate their income when applying for financial aid.                               Information for Students Regarding FAFSA Changes
See the table below for an overview of the upcoming FAFSA changes.

When a Student Is Attending College (School Year)When a Student Can Submit a FAFSAWhich Year’s Income Information Is Required
July 1, 2015–June 30, 2016
January 1, 2015–June 30, 2016
2014
July 1, 2016–June 30, 2017
January 1, 2016–June 30, 2017
2015
July 1, 2017–June 30, 2018
October 1, 2016–June 30, 2018
2015
July 1, 2018–June 30, 2019
October 1, 2017–June 30, 2019
2016
      Source: StudentAid.ed.gov website
See resource: FASFA Changes 2017-18

 

Why the FAFSA?

Um, that is great question.  The US Dept. of Education claims completing the FAFSA is the single most important act in determining financial eligibility for college.  Fast Web adds that completing the FAFSA puts students at an advantage of receiving federal, state, and/or school aid.  So, the FAFSA is important to determining the amount of money students will receive for college.  However, many students and their families fail to complete this free application each year.  Let's talk about the problems with the current FAFSA.

 

Problems with the FAFSA

Hey, come back here!!
Many researchers believe the FAFSA is completely unnecessary and contains information that is already available from the IRS. Even though Congress has tried to simplify the FAFSA, the Dept. of Education has continued to add questions to this already complex form.  In  a blog post by Susan M. Dynarski of the Brookings Institute, she points out some great reasons why the FAFSA is really unnecessary. 

1.  It is too complex and many families don't understand how or why they should complete it.
2.  Many of the questions are totally unnecessary.
3.  The information can be provided by the IRS.
4.  It deters college admission particularly for low income students.

 

What Can Counselors Do to Encourage Families to Complete the FAFSA?

Change your financial IQ!
One of the initiatives of the First Lady is to help students understand the financial aid process.  So who do you suppose high school families and students come to for help?  You guessed it...you, their school counselor.  The problem is that the majority of school counselors are clueless or uncertain about the financial aid process, including myself.  Here are some suggestions about improving your financial aid IQ.

1.  Get training!  The good news is that training is free from US Dept. of Education Financial Aid Toolkit.

Webinars include:
Resources:

Students With Disabilities
Financial Aid Application Checklist
Junior/Senior Checklist

2.  Hold your own financial aid night.  Check out these resources, power point, and handouts from College Foundation of NC.

3.  Check out UCANGO2 website for financial aid resources and toolkit.

Parent Flyer
Student Poster
Complete the FAFSA in 5 Steps
Helpful FAFSA Links and Resources


4.  Sponsor or encourage your students to attend College Goal Sunday event. Look at the map below to see if your state participates in a College Goal Sunday event.

States in blue sponsor College Goal Sunday events
5.  Consider participating in McKinney Vento FAFSA Week
This kit comes with a power point, how to instructions, invitations, and much more!


6. Share resources with families and students throughout the school year.






See additional financial aid videos for families.

Other resources and handouts:

Who Is My Parent When I File the FAFSA?
High School FAFSA Completion
Fastweb Free Downloads

7.  Help students find support!

Online Help
Videos, booklets, and web resources

Want to know more about the White House initiative?  Check out this great blog post by Patrick O'Connor regarding how the White House news regarding the FAFSA impacts counselors.

Also, check out my blog about answering difficult student questions regarding the FAFSA.