The end of the school year is a time of transition for students. Mixed with the joy that comes with the school year ending can be anxiety and fear of the unknown.
This year, these feelings are also present among many school counselors and college advisors as they begin to prepare for the 2016-17 school year, due to major reforms to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
This fall, the FAFSA will undergo two major changes that are having a ripple effect throughout the college application process:
(1) The FAFSA will be available on October 1, 2016 – three months earlier than in past academic years.
(2) Families will be able to use prior-prior year tax information on the FAFSA.
On June 2nd, the Higher Education Compact convened College Now advisors, Cleveland Metropolitan School District counselors, higher education representatives and community partners at Cuyahoga Community College to talk about these upcoming reforms.
MorraLee Keller of the National College Access Network and Angela Johnson of Cuyahoga County Community College outlined the impact these changes will have on higher education, high school staff and students. Mark Evans, Director of Financial Aid at Kent State University, discussed the decision by his institution to move up their FAFSA priority deadline. Finally, Michelle Scott Taylor of College Now interviewed two College Now advisors about how they plan to prepare for these new deadlines.
A major theme throughout the forum was that, while these reforms are intended to provide students with additional time to make an informed decision, in practice, the changes may actually lead students to feel more overwhelmed and pressured to commit to the first offer they receive. This is because some schools are moving up their priority financial aid deadlines from the traditional date of February 15 to as early December 1, while others are following NCAN’s guidance and maintaining their later deadlines. Students may receive their admissions offer and estimated financial aid packages from one school months earlier than they do from other schools, and then may choose to accept an early admissions offer either because: (1) they want the admissions process to end so they can enjoy their senior year, (2) they assume that the first offer is from the best school they can get into, or (3) they assume that it is the best financial aid offer they will receive. It is critical for school and non-school based practitioners to concentrate their efforts on keeping students motivated and focused throughout their senior year and the extended college application process.
Below are additional resources from the U.S. Department of Education to help you keep your students motivated and focused, and ensure that students and their families are prepared for the 2017-18 FAFSA. Additionally, specific questions regarding the FAFSA changes can be sent to the Higher Education Compact Fellow Margie Glick at firstname.lastname@example.org.
2017–18 FAFSA Messaging and Planning Calendar (Result Type: PDF)
Description: Document that provides suggested outreach activities and resources to help you plan communications to students and parents for the 2017–18 FAFSA. [234 KB]
2017–18 FAFSA Talking Points (Result Type: DOC)
Description: Messages for counselors to use with colleagues, students, and parents to inform them about the changes for the 2017–18 FAFSA.
College Students and Parents: What You Need to Know About the 2017–18 FAFSA (Result Type: PDF)
Description: Details for college students and parents about changes to the FAFSA launch date and the tax year the FAFSA asks about.
Counselors and Mentors: What You Need to Know About the 2017–18 FAFSA (Result Type: PDF)
Description: Both the FAFSA launch date and the tax year about which the FAFSA asks are changing for the 2017–18 FAFSA.
Federal Student Aid Resources for the 2017–18 FAFSA (Result Type: PDF)
Description: Document listing Federal Student Aid resources that can be used to support outreach for the 2017–18 FAFSA.
What’s New for the 2017–18 FAFSA? Basics for High School Counselors and College Access Mentors (Result Type: PPT)
Description: Training presentation, explaining changes for the 2017–18 FAFSA cycle and highlighting.
What’s New for the 2017–18 FAFSA? Basics for Parents and College Students (Result Type: PPT)
Description: Presentation explaining that the 2017–18 FAFSA will launch earlier and ask for earlier tax and income information than in previous years.