FAFSA

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) opens October 1st of each year. The FAFSA requires tax information from 2 years prior tax returns. For example, the 2018-2019 FAFSA requires 2016 tax information and the 2019-2020 FAFSA requires 2017 tax information.

Due to University System of Georgia system upgrades, 2019-2020 awarding will be delayed. We will retrieve FAFSA files in January 2019, and awards are estimated to begin by February 2019.

Early Estimate awards will begin late November to early December. These estimated awards are based on the previous year’s Cost of Attendance (COA). Loan amounts will be based on student’s current class level and annual limits. HOPE/Zell Miller Scholarship amounts will also be based on the previous year’s per credit hour rates. HOPE eligibility for current high school seniors will be based on end of the 11th grade status as reported by their high school during the Early Estimate period.  This information will be updated in early Spring Semester based on preliminary reporting of the high school to the HOPE Office. Awards will be estimated through the beginning of Summer Semester and will then be adjusted based on actual costs, new federal aid regulations, and any state program updates.

While most deadlines are “soft” deadlines, below is a list of dates that correspond to aid processing in our office.

July 1 – Fall semester “soft” deadline for completion of all financial aid forms.  Files completed after this date will be processed as time permits, and students will be reimbursed any funds awarded.

November 1 – Spring semester “soft” deadline for completion of all financial aid forms.  Files completed after this date will be processed as time permits, and students will be reimbursed any funds awarded.

April 1 – Summer semester “soft” deadline for completion of all financial aid forms.  Files completed after this date will be processed as time permits, and students will be reimbursed any funds awarded.

Students must submit complete financial aid applications to be considered for aid.  Some programs have a limited supply of funds.   Please note that this is not a guarantee of funds availability but rather a timeframe based on previous history.  All limited-funded programs are awarded on a first-come, first-served basis.

Students must submit complete financial aid applications by these dates in order to use financial aid funds to pay for the semester's bill. Students whose files are not complete by this date should be prepared to pay costs until applications are processed and eligibility is determined.

Particular programs may have stricter deadlines.  Examples would be HOPE/Zell Miller Scholarship and Dual Enrollment.  Specific dates and/or deadlines for various aid types that deviate from the above timeline are denoted on our website in the explanation of those particular programs.

As in previous years, federal regulations allow Financial Aid administrators to review files on a case-by-case basis one time per academic year if your income has changed due to involuntary unemployment, death of a tax filer, or medical expenses paid out-of-pocket.  Please contact our office for further instructions.  Supporting documentation as well as internal forms are required to request an income adjustment.  Families are not eligible to request an income adjustment if a tax filer quits their job, retires, or removes income from retirement funds.

Here are some tips for this type situation:

The FAFSA asks for marital status “as of today” (the day it is filled out).  So if you or your parent are married now but were not in the tax year in question (and therefore did not file taxes as married), the spouse’s income will need to be added to the FAFSA.

Similarly, if you or your parent filed taxes as married during the FAFSA tax year, but are no longer married when filling out the FAFSA, the spouse’s income will need to be subtracted.

And if you or your parent were married when filing taxes, then got divorced and are now married to someone else, there’s a bit more math to do:  Subtract the ex’s income, then add the new spouse’s income.

The deadline for tax preparers to file their taxes if a tax extension was originally filed is in mid-October.  Because the FAFSA requires 2 year’s prior taxes now, taxes for the year in question should be filed when completing the FAFSA. You will need to complete the FAFSA after your parents have actually filed their tax returns for the required year.
Most students and parents are able to use the IRS Data Retrieval tool.  If your parents are married and filed Married Filing Separately, then they will not be able to use the IRS Data Retrieval tool when completing the FAFSA.  Updated Status of the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT):  Additional security and privacy protections have been added to address concerns that data from the tool could be used by identity thieves to file fraudulent tax returns.  The IRS may even send you, via U.S. Mail, a “Notification of Access to the Department of Education’s IRS Data Retrieval Tool”.
The IRS DRT remains the fastest, most accurate way to input your tax return information into the FAFSA form. The IRS Data Retrieval tool should be used to possibly prevent delays in your Financial Aid eligibility being processed.  If your file is selected for verification, tax return transcripts will be required if the IRS Data Retrieval tool is not used.