On Sept. 14, 2015, President Obama announced significant changes to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) process that will impact millions of students. Starting next year, students will be able to:
- Submit a FAFSA Earlier: Students will be able to file a 2017–2018 FAFSA as early as Oct. 1, 2016, rather than beginning on Jan. 1, 2017. The earlier submission date will be a permanent change, enabling students to complete and submit a FAFSA as early as October 1 every year.
- Use Earlier Income Information: Beginning with the 2017–2018 FAFSA, students will report income information from an earlier tax year. For example, on the 2017–2018 FAFSA, students (and parents, as appropriate) will report their 2015 income information, rather than their 2016 income information.
FAFSA Process Changes
The 2016–2017 FAFSA will be the final FAFSA to launch on January 1. Students who need to complete the 2016–2017 FAFSA will be able to access and submit the form anytime between Jan. 1, 2016, and June 30, 2017. Beginning with the 2017–2018 FAFSA, the start date will move from January 1 to October 1of the previous year. This means that students who complete the 2017–2018 FAFSA will be able to submit the form anytime between Oct. 1, 2016, and June 30, 2018.
In addition to changes to the FAFSA launch date, there are also changes to the requirements for reporting income information. Currently, FAFSA applicants provide income information from the “prior tax year.” For example, 2016–2017 applicants must report 2015 income information. Beginning with the 2017–2018 FAFSA, applicants will provide income information from one tax year earlier—the “prior-prior” year. This means that the 2017–2018 FAFSA will collect 2015 income information. As a result of this change, more students and families will be able to complete their FAFSA using income information imported electronically from the IRS, using our IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT), rather than submitting applications with income estimates that may need correcting, or worse, waiting until the previous year’s tax return has been filed.