FAFSA changes will improve financial assistance for college-bound students

Bladen Community College encourages students to begin the process of completing a financial aid application for attending college.

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a federal program which automatically qualifies students for a variety of federal and state grants, work study programs, and federal student loans. Financial assistance through a federal or state grant does not have to be repaid. Assistance provided with a work-study program allows students to be employed on campus to help with the expenses.

According to BCC Director of Financial Aid, Samantha Benson, “the FAFSA is changing in two ways, beginning with the 2017-18 award year.”

Benson describes the changes, “The FAFSA will be available three months earlier than previously. For the 2017-18 award year, that will be on October 1, 2016, rather than on January 1, 2017. The Department of Education has coined the term Early FAFSA for this change.”

Also, the income information requested for the FAFSA will reflect the two years prior to the application year. “This is referred to as the Prior-Prior Year,” remarks Benson. “Previously, only one year of income prior to the application year was considered. The 2017 form will reflect the 2015 and 2016 income data.”

Prior-Prior Year, along with Early FAFSA, will have a positive, long-lasting impact on how students apply for federal aid and make post-secondary attendance decisions. The move to an earlier application date can help students in several ways.

“By having the FAFSA available earlier,” explains Benson, “students will be able to complete their federal aid applications in the same time frame as their college admissions applications, streamlining the college application process. Students and their families will have more time to resolve any income verification requirements or supplemental requests from financial aid offices.”

She continues, “In addition, learning about their federal aid eligibility earlier will allow students and families to understand better each institution’s cost information and make more informed decisions about which school is the right match for them.”

Benson is confident that by using earlier income data, more families will have their completed tax information available by the time they are ready to apply for financial aid.

“This will also make it easier to fill in application forms, and increase the likelihood that families will be able to import their income directly from the IRS using the online Data Retrieval Tool (DRT).”

Billions of dollars in financial aid are available to help college-bound students who are in financial need. But to be considered, you must apply.

For more information about the FAFSA form, call 910-879-5500.

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