The New 2017-2018 FAFSA

Changes to the FAFSA make it faster and easier!

You can now file your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as early as October 1, using income data from your 2015 taxes, instead of waiting until January 2016. This change will also allow you to receive notification earlier, and give you more time to prepare for college costs and to discuss options with financial aid administrators.

What is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), and how is it changing?

The FAFSA is the application that students must complete to apply for federal student aid, which is used to attend an eligible college. Federal student aid includes Federal Pell Grants, federal student loans, Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG), and Federal Work-Study (FWS).  The FAFSA is also used to determine eligibility for the New York Tuition Assistance Program (TAP), New Jersey Tuition Aid Grant (TAG), and Berkeley College institutional aid.

Two major changes to the FAFSA will take effect for the 2017–18 award year. (The 2017–18 award year runs from July 1, 2017, through June 30, 2018.)

  1. The FAFSA will be available earlier (October 1 of the current year instead of January 1 of the upcoming school year).
  2. The FAFSA will require income information from the 2015 tax year, which is the prior-prior year instead of the prior year income, as it has been in the past. 

The following table summarizes the changes. You will find details below the table.

School year  

FAFSA submission window 

Required income information 

Tax Information 

July 1, 2016–
June 30, 2017 
 January 1, 2016–
June 30, 2017 
2015 Prior Year Tax Data
July 1, 2017–
June 30, 2018 
October 1, 2016–
June 30, 2018 
2015 Prior-Prior Year Tax Data*
July 1, 2018–
June 30, 2019 
October 1, 2017–
June 30, 2019 
2016 Prior-Prior Year Tax Data

*The 2017–2018 FAFSA is significant because it will be the first year tax information from the prior-prior year (2015) will be used when applying for financial aid. 

The FAFSA will be available earlier.

Currently, students cannot complete a FAFSA for the upcoming school year until January 1. For example, for the 2016–17 school year, an applicant cannot complete a FAFSA until January 1, 2016. Beginning with the 2017–18 school year, applicants will be able to complete a FAFSA as early as October 1 of this year. (See table above.)

The FAFSA will require information from an earlier tax year.

The second major change also begins with the 2017–18 FAFSA cycle. Currently, in addition to other information, FAFSA applicants (and their parents, if applicable) must report the prior year’s income information. For example, for the 2016–17 school year, applicants must report income information for 2015—the tax year before the beginning of the school year. Beginning with the 2017–18 FAFSA, students will report income information from two years prior (or prior-prior), which in this case is 2015 income information—two tax years before the beginning of the school year. (See table above.)

How will an earlier FAFSA and the change to the income year benefit students?

Benefits include the following:

  • Alignment - The financial aid application process will be more aligned with the college application process.
  • Certainty - Students (and their parents, if applicable) will not need to estimate income information because their 2015 taxes have already been completed.
  • Less pressure - There will be more time for students to explore and understand financial aid options and apply for aid before school deadlines.

Will Berkeley College change its financial aid processing timelines due to the FAFSA being available earlier?

Yes. This will benefit students in that scholarships will be awarded upon acceptance.

Do students still have to complete the FAFSA every year?

Yes. Eligibility for federal student aid does not carry over from one school year to the next. Students will need to fill out the FAFSA for each school year in which they plan to be a student. Eligibility for financial aid can differ from year to year for various reasons, including a student’s or family’s financial situation and the number of family members enrolled in college.

Do families need to complete their taxes before they fill out the FAFSA?

No, but it is highly recommended that they do. However, beginning in 2017-18 the Early FAFSA makes this decision easy. Students will report income information from two years prior, which in this case is 2015 income information. Considering that the 2015 tax filing deadline is April 15, 2016, and the 2017-18 FAFSA will become available on October 1, 2016, applicants are very likely to have completed their taxes before October 1, and the tax information would be available to be reported on the FAFSA.

How do students create the FSA ID required to complete the FAFSA?

Please download the instructions on how to create an FSA ID.   

How does information transfer from the IRS to the FAFSA?

The IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT) allows applicants (and their parents, if applicable) to access the IRS tax return information needed to complete the FAFSA, and transfer the required information directly into the FAFSA from the IRS. The FAFSA includes a link to the IRS if an applicant is eligible to use the IRS DRT.

Can a student still be selected for verification if he or she is using 2015 income?

Yes. A student can be selected for verification by either the U.S. Department of Education or by the student’s school. Verification is a process by which a student is required to submit documentation that the data reported on the student’s FAFSA is accurate. The financial aid administrator at a student’s college may make corrections or updates to the student’s FAFSA based on the documentation provided as part of the verification process.

The 2017–2018 FAFSA is also known as "Prior-Prior Year" or "Early FAFSA." Check out these videos from the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA):

Filing the FAFSA early will give you a better idea of what your financial aid package will look like.

Watch the Early FAFSA Filing Video