The New Year will soon be upon us, and with that is the start of another FAFSA season. FAFSA – the Free Application for Federal Student Aid – is the key to receiving access to federal, state and institutional college financial aid. It is important to complete the FAFSA accurately as errors could lead to additional processing time. Some aid is distributed on a first-come, first-served basis, so you don’t want to miss out on any opportunity to maximize the amount of aid available. Here are some scheduled changes for the 2015 FAFSA which might affect you:
• Foster Care: Students who have been in foster care may have some difficulty with questions that ask about their parents. This issue has been clarified for the 2015 FAFSA. A new question will ask whether the applicant is now in foster care or has ever been in foster care. If the answer is “Yes,” the student will receive messages about additional potential resources such as the Education and Training Voucher (ETV) Program and the John H. Chafee Foster Care Independence Program.
• Legal Residence: Applicants will be asked if they became a legal resident of their state prior to a certain date. If the answer is yes, the applicant moves on to the next question. If the answer is no, applicants will then be prompted to enter the month and year they became a legal resident.
• Neither Citizen nor Eligible Non-Citizen: Applicants will be prompted to select this option if they are in the U.S. and have:
· Been granted Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)
· An F1 or F2 student visa
· A J1 or J2 exchange visitor visa
· A G series visa
• High School Diploma: Clarification has been provided to state that a high school diploma means the applicant has received or will receive a U.S. high school diploma, or a foreign school equivalent, before the first date of college enrollment.
• Number in College: This question will ask how many people in the parents’ household will be college students between July 1, 2015 and June 30, 2016. Always count the student who is applying for aid, but do not include the parents or any siblings who are in U.S. military service academies.
• Legal Parent: Further clarification has been provided about who is considered a legal parent for FAFSA purposes. Applicants should answer all the questions even if they do not live with their legal parents. Grandparents and others caring for a child they have not legally adopted are not considered parents. These clarifications are particularly helpful in states that have recognized same-sex marriages. The form also provides further clarification about parents who are “separated.”
In addition, in April of 2015 FAFSA on the Web will be updated to require users to authenticate with the FSA ID rather than the PIN. After completing the FAFSA, FSA will mail a Student Aid Report (SAR) to the applicant and make the information available to listed colleges.