Xenia Daily Gazette

CEDARVILLE — Incoming college students will have an easier way to collect financial aid for their respective universities, thanks to a new initiative by the federal government. The new guidelines will allow students to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) three months earlier.

The result is expected to help students understand how much aid they will receive earlier in the college search process. Colleges are hopeful this change will help them recruit more students.

Previously, students had to wait until January 1 to file a FAFSA, and most financial aid packages were not awarded until March or later. But changes implemented by the federal government will make the FAFSA available in October, allowing colleges to notify students of their aid packages earlier.

“Our plan is to send award notifications to first-time freshmen beginning in January, and send returning students their notifications in March,” said Kim Jenerette, executive director of financial aid at Cedarville University. “The beauty of the updated process is that families will be able to make decisions regarding aid much earlier than they could before.”

Another change to the FAFSA includes what the government calls Prior-Prior Year (PPY) tax information. PPY refers to a policy enabling students and families to file the using tax information from two years ago. For example, a high school senior planning to enroll in college in fall 2017 will file FAFSA using taxes from 2015.

The new policy will allow families to fill out their FAFSA immediately by using completed tax information from two years prior, rather than waiting until their current year tax information is complete.

“The changes make it so students won’t have to wait as long to make their college decision,” said Jenerette, who also serves on the board of directors for the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators. “Families should have an easier time filling out the FAFSA, they’ll have a better idea of the financial aspects earlier in the process and they’ll be able to make a more informed decision.”

An important deadline that will not change is May 1, which is when students must decide whether to accept or reject their aid packages. A complete explanation of the new FAFSA policies can be found by visiting the official website of the National Association for College Admission Counseling at www.nacacnet.org.

Content provided by Cedarville University.