Information on the New 2017-2018 FAFSA

The federal government has moved the opening for the FAFSA for the 2017-18 school year.  It is now available for completion on OCTOBER 1ST, 2016 and will use the prior prior year’s tax information (see details below). The Priority Deadline is now DECEMBER 1ST, 2016.

What this means to you is, you will want to complete the FAFSA much earlier than you have in the past.

What does Prior Prior Year mean?

In the past, the FAFSA was based on the tax information for the year immediately preceding enrollment.  In basic terms; if the student was starting the academic year in 2016-2017, the FAFSA would use tax information for 2015.

With the new opening date, tax information for the prior year will not yet be available.  To accommodate that shift, the Dept of Education has determined that the FAFSA will reflect a year that has been completed.  Thus; if a student starting in 2017-2018 will use the tax information for 2015 (2016 isn’t available).

For this one time, one tax year will be used for two separate academic years. In the future, it will be normalized to the older information.

Academic Year                       Tax Information Year

2016-17                                               2015

2017-18                                               2015

2018-19                                               2016

2019-20                                               2017


Why is this being done?

The Dept of Education, in an effort to assist students in understanding costs, and managing affordability, has introduced this change.  The reasoning is that a student can receive the financial information further in advance of attendance, and will have more time to make an informed decision about a school’s affordability.

What if there are significant changes to be considered?

It’s clear that in a timeframe of up to two years, there could be changes to income, to family size, and to marital status.  If those are true, the student can contact the financial aid office for input.  The financial aid counselor can help determine what additional forms may be needed to complete changes, and what the changes may affect.  The student will want to complete the FAFSA with the status as of the date of completion, which may not match the status on the tax return used.  With proper documentation, these issues can be addressed.

What are important things for the student to do?

Do the FAFSA as early as possible.  The FAFSA packaging priority deadline at NU is December 1st,  2016. By completing early, the student will be in the initial rounds of awarding. This gives the student priority for funds that are limited, and, invariably, are fully spent later in the award cycle.

Use the Data Retrieval Tool (DRT).  On the FAFSA, there is a question regarding using the DRT.  The DRT will automatically match the data the student/family have input into the FAFSA with the data showing on the tax return.  Doing this will save steps in the verification process, which will save time, and ensure more accurate awarding.

When will award letters be sent to the students?

Awards will begin to be sent out in December for Incoming students.  Continuing students should begin to see letters in January or February.