The New 2018-2019 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 2016 taxes, instead of waiting until January 2019. 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 state grant (or scholarship) programs (such as New York Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) and New Jersey Tuition Aid Grant (TAG)), and Berkeley College Institutional Aid.
Two recent changes to the FAFSA:
- The FAFSA will be available earlier (October 1 of the current year instead of January 1 of the upcoming school year).
- The 2018-2019 FAFSA will require income information from the 2016 tax year (the prior-prior year instead of the prior year income).
The FAFSA will be available earlier.
In the past, students could not complete a FAFSA for the upcoming school year until January 1 or until tax returns were prepared (3 months later). Applicants can now submit a FAFSA as early as October 1 (using the prior-prior year’s tax return).
The FAFSA will require information from an earlier tax year.
As referenced above, the second major change is the use of the prior year’s income information to the prior-prior year. For example, for the 2018–2019 school year, applicants must report income information for 2016 (prior-prior year) the tax year before the beginning of the school year. Before this change it would have been the 2017 information (prior year).
How does an earlier FAFSA and the change to the income year benefit students?
Benefits include the following:
- Alignment - The financial aid application process is more aligned with the college application process.
- Certainty - Students (and their parents, if applicable) do not need to estimate income information because their 2016 taxes have already been completed.
- Less pressure - There is be more time for students to explore and understand financial aid options and apply for aid before school deadlines.
Did Berkeley College change its financial aid processing timelines due to the FAFSA being available earlier?
Yes. This will benefits 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.
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 2016 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 2018–2019 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.