“Every student is urged to fill out this application, and not just because every student qualifies for some form of federal financial aid,” according to Taina Savoit, director of financial aid at McNeese State University, “but based on this single application, students also automatically are considered for federal and state grants, federal student loans and even part-time jobs on campus.”
Now, February is coming early - four months early, in fact, thanks to a change in policy at the U.S. Department of Education. Instead of having to wait until January to file the 2017-2018 FAFSA, students can apply starting Oct. 1.
The move to October marks a major shift in the way the Department of Education will determine a student’s FAFSA eligibility. “In previous years, students were asked to supply their family’s previous year’s tax information to determine their potential aid levels. However, many families had not yet filed their taxes in January when the FAFSA application became available, leading to potential mistakes on the applications that would necessitate later corrections,” explains Savoit.
She said this policy change seeks to solve that problem. “The move to October not only widens the window for applications - as of now, students are still guaranteed their financial aid will be ready for the fall semester if they fill out their applications by May 1 here at McNeese - but it also marks a shift to what the Department of Education is calling ‘prior prior’ tax return reliance, where tax information from the previous year isn’t used, but instead the information from two years ago.”
Savoit says the intent is for the student to have more accurate information for the application because the tax return has already been filed.
“The move has been a long time coming. By utilizing already verified tax returns, students will have a better idea of what they qualify for and what their expected college costs will be for the upcoming year. In the long run, this is going to be very beneficial to students,” she adds. “A lot of our students are receiving federal aid and scholarships and we want to make sure they’re not forfeiting any of that funding.”
Students and their families are encouraged to contact the Office of Financial Aid with any questions concerning FAFSA changes, as well as for information on other financial assistance opportunities for current or future students. Computers are available in the office for students to use to fill out their applications and financial aid personnel are available to assist students.
With this recent change in the FAFSA application process, the Office of Financial Aid staff members will present several free financial aid workshops in high schools throughout a seven-parish area - as well as six regional workshops – in October and November for local high school students and their parents as well as current McNeese students.
These workshops provide guidance on what FAFSA is and how it benefits students, how to complete FAFSA, how to estimate the cost of higher education and how students can prepare for their education beyond high school, said Savoit.
The six scheduled regional workshops are as follows:
- Tuesday, Oct. 4, 6 p.m. - Sulphur High School
- Wednesday, Oct. 5, 6 p.m. - Iowa High School
- Thursday, Oct. 6, 6 p.m. - DeQuincy High School
- Tuesday, Oct. 11, 5:30 p.m. - Kinder High School
- Thursday, Oct. 13, 6 p.m. - DeRidder High School
- Monday, Oct. 17, 6 p.m. - Jennings High School
More times and dates will be announced as they become available. For more information, students should check with their local high school office or contact the Office of Financial Aid at 337-475-5065 or 1-800-622-3352, ext. 5065.