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Students allowed to apply for aid earlier for Fall 2017

President Obama

A presidential executive action on Sept. 14, 2015 will allow earlier year tax information on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, effective with the 2017-18 academic year.

The change will make the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, available in October 2016 for students applying for aid for Fall Term 2017. This allows families to use 2015 tax return information for their application instead of waiting to use information from 2016. The White House announced the initiative on Sunday, with President Obama scheduled to detail the proposal during a speech Monday.

Previously, the FAFSA was not made available until the January 1 prior to Fall Term and families Barack Obamahad to either estimate income or wait until filing tax returns to complete the FAFSA.

“Those of us in the higher-education field have advocated for this change for some time,” said Pamela W. Fowler, executive director of the U-M Office of Financial Aid. “This is a positive move for our students and families and will allow our prospective families to assess their financial situation earlier in the decision-making process.”

This change will also allow more time for staff to work with prospective families as they consider their college choices, said Associate Vice President for Enrollment Management Kedra Ishop.  “The President’s order makes the financial aid timetable much more palatable for families and will broaden what they think is possible for themselves,” she said. “This is a win-win for both our University and our students and families.”

This change will increase the FAFSA’s accuracy and give families an earlier and more accurate idea of their anticipated financial aid and college costs.  Office of Financial Aid staff will discuss this executive order in detail and will advise students and families as quickly as possible the impact on aid deadlines and award notifications.

Higher education institutions have long advocated for using two-years prior tax information on the FAFSA (as opposed to one-year prior information) to ease the financial aid application process. Under current rules, for example, a student applying for 2017-18 aid would use 2016 tax return and file the FAFSA on January 1 or later. The change will let them use their 2015 return and file the FAFSA as early as October 2016.

For students applying for 2016-17 financial aid, the current system remains in place, with the FAFSA available on Jan. 1, 2016.

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