The availability of the 2017-2018 financial aid applications marked a shift in the methodology for evaluating student aid. The changes are generally positively regarded, but have many implications for Student Financial Services’ awarding policies and processes, particularly in the first year of implementation.
SFS uses two applications to evaluate undergraduates’ eligibility for aid: the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) for federal aid, and the CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE (Profile) for institutional aid. Until now, both forms required parent and student income and asset information from the prior tax year. Beginning with the 2017-2018 aid year, both forms require information from the “prior-prior” tax year. The forms are also now be available from October 1 of the previous year, rather than from January 1 of the current year.
For many of our returning students, the change to prior-prior year means that information from a single tax year (2015) will be used to evaluate aid eligibility for two aid years (2016-2017 and 2017-2018). For families whose financial circumstances remain basically steady from year to year, the change simply allows more time to complete their with actual tax data. For families whose financial circumstances were substantially different in 2015, SFS administrators are working to create rules so they are not doubly penalized.
SFS will also be able to reuse thousands of 2015 tax documents already collected during the 2016-2017 application cycle. SFS-ITS is working to make this happen within the ImageNow system, which will save many hours of effort for both students and the staff who process incoming documents.
SFS is actively working on these and many other changes behind the scenes, hoping for the smoothest possible transition for both students and staff.