ICAN Urges Students to Prepare for Early FAFSA
Free Application for Federal Student Aid Now Available October 1
HIAWATHA, IOWA – (September 29, 2016) - Students may still be adjusting to the new school year, but it’s already time to start planning and budgeting ahead. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, becomes available to students and families this Saturday –– on October 1, a new change this year.
In previous years, the FAFSA was not available to fill out for the next academic year until January 1. In Fall 2015, President Barack Obama took executive action to allow for the use of prior-prior year (PPY) income data on the FAFSA, laying the foundation for the earlier release date of the FAFSA.
This earlier release date provides students and parents with the opportunity to receive information about their financial aid packages earlier, which provides them with the details necessary to informed decisions about planning and paying for college.
“This year, the FAFSA is available for completion earlier than ever before, and students and parents should take advantage of the extra time to complete the form using their 2015 tax data,” said Brittania Morey, ICAN director of communications. “We’re hopeful that receiving information about student financial aid earlier will help families make better financial decisions and avoid unnecessary debt.”
While the FAFSA is available in October, it is not necessary for everyone to complete the FAFSA right away on October 1. Each college has its own priority date by which that they prefer to have the FAFSA completed. It’s best for students to prioritize their FAFSA filing by the priority date of the colleges that interest them, rather than trying to complete it on October 1.
The new process of opening the FAFSA application earlier, and using prior-prior year tax information should ease the process of applying for financial aid. For example, rather than waiting until 2016 taxes are completed – as has been the case in previous years – families can fill out the FAFSA with tax information from two years prior, or simply 2015 taxes. By using 2015, most families will be able to utilize the IRS Data Retrieval tool within the FAFSA form, making the form even easier for students and parents to fill out.
Still, the financial aid process often brings about a lot of stress and worry and families find themselves struggling to fill out the form, especially if they have never done so in the past. To help make the process as easy as possible, ICAN provides free FAFSA completion assistance at each of its nine locations. Appointments are free and can be scheduled online at www.icansucceed.org/apt. In addition, ICAN coordinates the state-wide FAFSA Ready Iowa program, which partners with community organizations and college and universities in 34 cities to provide walk-in FAFSA completion events. To find an event near you visit www.icansucceed.org/fafsareadyia.
Keep in mind that it’s never a mistake to fill out the FAFSA. The application is free, and serves as the first step toward federal financial aid as well as some state and institutional aid. Students and parents with questions can always reach out to ICAN at (877) 272-4692 or to their school’s financial aid office for assistance.
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The Iowa College Access Network is a nonprofit, educational organization. ICAN is the College Access Network for Iowa, and a member of the National College Access Network (NCAN). ICAN has locations in Ankeny, Coralville, Council Bluffs, Davenport, Des Moines, Hiawatha, Orange City, Sioux City, and Waterloo, which provide information and support to students and their families as they plan their postsecondary education and apply for financial aid. All ICAN programs and services are provided without charge. For more information about ICAN, call (877) 272-4692 or visit www.ICANsucceed.org