By Rachel Cooper
Starting Oct. 1, students and their families can submit their Free Application for Student Aid three months earlier than usual for 2017-18 and future academic years.
In previous years, the FAFSA was not available to file until Jan. 1.
Rose Carreon-Munoz, associate director of student financial aid, said “the way that it’s termed now, it’s called the ‘new FAFSA.’”
“By having this FAFSA available early, it’s going to allow students more time to complete their FAFSA requirements,” she said.
The FAFSA requires students to provide income tax returns, W-2 forms and other documents.
Students will now use their taxes from 2015 when they apply because of “prior-prior,” which means students now use their tax returns from two years ago, rather than estimate last year’s taxes long before the April IRS deadline.
Students can do some of their online applications through ACES, she said.
The priority deadline for FAFSA applications remains May 1.
The only thing a student might need to update on a FAFSA application is if he or she gets married, or is no longer married, Carreon-Munoz said.
Nursing freshman Brenda Hernandez was not aware of the “early FAFSA” date.
The new application opening date of Oct. 1 “will definitely help me,” she said.
When she filed the FAFSA for the 2015-16 school year, the application didn’t go through because of a misspelling, so she was unable to get financial aid for this semester, she said.
“It will help me now, knowing I can apply earlier,” she said.
And financial aid counselors will stay busy, Carreon-Munoz said.
“The financial aid office is going to be still processing the academic years ’16-’17 and ’17-’18, and getting ready for summer,” she said. “It’s going to be challenging to try to process a current year and an upcoming year three months earlier.”
What takes the longest for students when preparing their FAFSA is their taxes, delays in getting W-2s from their employers and the fact that sometimes they ask for extensions. However, that delay will no longer be “the norm,” Carreon-Munoz said.
This is because students can apply with taxes from 2015.
The student financial aid office will offer FAFSA Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. the first Saturday of October and November in the Duran Welcome Center. The event will resume in February.
“We help students actually fill out the FAFSA,” Carreon-Munez said.
“We collaborate with the college connections team who do all the academic parts: Apply Texas and transcript questions.”
FAFSA Saturdays have been going on for the past three or four years, she said.
Café College is aware of the new FAFSA date and can help students with filling out the FAFSA as well, Carreon-Munoz said. Café College is a resource available for students. The website is www.cafecollege.org/home.
Carreon-Munoz encourages students to check ACES for the status of their applications and if their tuition has been paid.
“One thing I encourage students to do, whether it’s with us or not, is that they use the IRS data retrieval tool,” she said. “It does take time to get an IRS tax transcript.”
The tax return transcript form can be found at www.irs.gov/individuals/get-transcript, and students can call the toll free number at 1-800-829-1040 or 1-800-908-9946.
Students can turn in documents through DocuSign; they don’t have to come into the office to turn in forms.