It’s that time of the year again: FAFSA time. The federal government has recently changed the FAFSA process in a big way. Previously, to file the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) students and their families were required to use their tax information from the prior year to complete the form. With this change in regulation, families will be asked to use their tax information from the prior prior year… What? Here at Le Moyne, we have the perfect person to explain this confusing “prior prior” policy: Kelly Kelly, Assistant Director of Financial Aid.
My name is Kelly Kelly through marriage. I met my husband back in '98 in college, and then we went our separate ways after college. Everybody joked, “If you guys got married you’d be Kelly Kelly!” And we were like, “yeah, no.” And years later we got reconnected. So my husband’s last name is Kelly, spelled the exact same way. So I thought “Why not?! We’ll change my name!” And yes, so now I am known as Kelly Kelly, due to marriage. That is how Kelly Kelly came about.
Filling out the FAFSA now requires the “prior prior year” tax returns. What does this mean?
In the past, the FAFSA was available to complete starting on January 1st. When filling out the FAFSA, students and families were required to use the previous year’s tax information. For example, a student filling out the FAFSA that had just become available on January 1st, 2016 would use their family’s “prior year” income information from 2015. However, with the new policy, the FAFSA is available starting October 1st of the previous year. A student who is filling out the FAFSA for the 2017-2018 school year had the form available to them to complete starting October 1st, 2016. To fill out the FAFSA, they will be using their family’s “prior prior year” tax information—their family’s income information from 2015 (two years before the 2017-2018 school year).
Students have a user ID and password to access the FAFSA form. Has this changed at all?
The ID and password that you use to log in is called the FSA ID (Federal Student Aid Identification). It is the ID that you will use for both the FAFSA and any other federal website you need to go to. The student filling out the FAFSA must create an ID as well as the parent who will sign the FAFSA and input tax information. In the case of a family with multiple students, a parent may use their one ID to sign all of their student’s FAFSA’s; however, each student must have their own individual IDs. To create this ID, both the student and parent will go to fsaid.ed.gov
and create their own ID’s.
What happens if you forget your FSA ID? Is there a way to reset it?
If at any time you forget your FSA ID, you will have to go to fsaid.ed.gov
and click on “edit my FSA ID” to retrieve you username and password. So, while it is possible to retrieve your username and password, security measures can often make this process difficult if you don’t remember email and security question information. To avoid this, it is extremely important that you note your FSA ID in a safe spot; you will be using it for the duration of your college education career.
With the new policy, students and families filling out the FAFSA can now directly link to the IRS to upload their tax information. How does this work?
When you’re filling out the FAFSA, it will ask you if you would like to link your information from the IRS; the question must be answered before continuing to fill out the form. It is recommended to do this because it makes the form easier to fill out; you will not have to manually look at your tax forms and input numbers. If you answer yes to the question, it will take you to the IRS page, you will put in the address that is on your tax form, and it will transfer all of the information from the IRS database back to your FAFSA form. Under the tax information section on your form it will say, in bold, “transferred from IRS."
What should families who already have a child in college be aware of with the new FAFSA policy?
For students currently in college, the FAFSA became available on October 1st. It is important to be aware that they will be using the same tax information for the 2017-2018 FAFSA that they used for the 2016-2017 FAFSA. For the 2016-2017 school year, students and families used their 2015 tax information to fill out the FAFSA. For the coming 2017-2018 school year, returning students will use their 2015 tax information again.
What about families who have experienced a major financial change in the past year? For example, a job loss… you’re using the “prior prior year”, say this happens within the last year, does that affect the financial aid you may have received?
In a scenario like this, a family must follow the new policy and still use their “prior prior year” tax information. However, in the case of a financial change like this, it is important to reach out to and directly communicate with a college’s financial aid office to discuss any concerns.
How does the new FAFSA policy positively benefit families?
It’s more streamlined; one stop. You don’t have to worry about doing a “guesstimate” on the FAFSA and then remember to go back in and complete it later. It’s less steps. A lot of times, with freshmen, they worry. It’s like a checklist—this, this, this… So instead of saying “now remember to go back and update the FAFSA”, it’s already done. It makes it a lot easier.
What's important for students to know if they are having trouble with the FAFSA process or any other financial aid situation?
Students should not hesitate to contact the Financial Aid Office
. If a student or a parent/guardian has any questions or concerns, it is important to reach out directly to Financial Aid; they are there to help.
Written by: Claire Nakoski, '17, Communications major