Will the FAFSA Changes Affect You?
College students and their parents are accustomed to filling out the yearly Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This is usually a pretty straightforward, if not drawn-out, process. But in today’s society students have many different types of home living arrangements which can cause problems when completing these forms. Trying to answer the seemingly-simple question of “who is my parent?” can become a matter of splitting regulatory hairs. Questions about stepparents, adoptive parents and parents in same sex marriages cloud the information students can supply and may affect their ability to obtain a higher amount of federal financial aid.
The U.S. Department of Education recently took steps to clear up this confusion. Beginning with forms to be completed for the 2014-2015 school year, students will be able to submit income and other information from their legal parents, regardless of their marital status or gender, if those parents live together. Instead of gender-specific terms like “mother” and “father,” the FAFSA will include terms like “Parent 1” and “Parent 2.” This information is used to calculate the Expected Family Contribution (EFC) and the amount of aid you will be eligible to receive. These changes do not affect students whose parents are divorced and not living with each other.
According to the Department, these updates were made to insure a fairer treatment for all families. Although this will probably not affect the majority of students, it will have implications for those whose status has been unclear to this point. For some it may mean that the amount of aid will decrease, but for others it might also mean that the amount of aid could increase.
What Does All of This Mean?
Everyone needs to pay attention to what is happening in the financial aid world. High school juniors may be affected by these changes as they begin to apply to colleges. High school seniors who have already completed their FAFSA for this year may find a different form when they go to reapply next year.
In general there may be a lot of changes ahead in the realm of student aid. The effects of the budget sequester, continuing uncertainty about the economy, and an ongoing review of the financial aid process can all result in continued revisions to the way students apply for and receive financial help. The best way to find out the implications in any given year is to consult with a professional college financial aid advisor. It is the advisor’s job to keep updated on all of this information so he or she can advise you on the impact these changes may have on your ability to attend and afford college.
If you need help figuring out how these changes will affect you contact College Financial Aid Advisors (CFAA). If you are a high school junior who is just starting to work your way through the financial aid process and need professional insights, contact CFAA now for a FREE financial aid strategy session.