2017-2018 FAFSA Changes

Prior to the 2017-2018 academic year, the FAFSA begin date coincided with the IRS tax filing begin date which is January 1st. Beginning with the 2017-2018 FAFSA the application will become available on October 1st of each year.

Beginning with the 2017-2018 FAFSA students and parents will use their earlier year (also referred to as “prior-prior year”) tax information. For example, the 2017-2018 FAFSA will use 2015 tax information and the 2018-2019 FAFSA will use 2016 tax information.

By requiring the use of earlier year (also referred to as “prior-prior year”) tax information, students and parents will no longer need to complete the FAFSA based on estimated tax information to then later return to the FAFSA to enter the actual information. Because the tax filing deadline and tax extension deadline will have passed prior to the FAFSA deadline of July 1, all students and parents will have already filed.

Note: The 2017-2018 FAFSA will be the only year that the same tax information will be used two years consecutively. The 2016-2017 FAFSA also used 2015 tax information.

Yes. You will be required to fill out a 2017-2018 FAFSA in order to be considered for federal financial aid in the 2017-2018 year. Other household information may still change from year to year (i.e. number of people in household, number in college, marital status, etc.)

We are anticipating that Forecasted award notifications will begin late-November to early-December. Awards will be Forecasted from the first day of awarding through early spring. We will begin on approximately March 1st to evaluate eligibility based on Early Estimates as we have in past years. Finally, at the beginning of summer, we will make adjustments related to eligibility based on actual costs, new federal aid regulations, and any state program updates.  These awards are typically final notifications unless individual changes occur (i.e. external scholarships, changes made to FAFSA, etc.)

Forecasted awards for 2017-2018 will be based on a Forecasted Cost of Attendance (COA) which uses the 2016-2017 tuition and fee rates and estimated cost for other direct and indirect educational expenses.  Loan amounts will be based on the student’s current class level and annual limits. HOPE and Zell Miller Scholarship awards will also be based on 2016-2017 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 Forecasting period.  This information will be updated in early Spring 2017 based on preliminary reporting of the high school to the HOPE Office.

Final awards will be based on updated information for 2017-2018 to reflect actual costs as well as new or changing federal and state aid program regulations.

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

October 1 – Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is available online at www.fafsa.gov and is recommended for all students interested in federal aid including HOPE/Zell Miller Scholarship.

Late November through February – “Forecasted” Awards for all students that have completed the FAFSA application process.  Look for a “Forecasted” Award email from the GC Financial Aid Office.  Instructions for accessing the award information and explanations will be included.

March 1 to May – “Early Estimate” Awards for all students that have completed the FAFSA application process.  Look for an award email from the GC Financial Aid Office.  Instructions for accessing the award information will be included.

June – Official award notifications will be made and students will be notified via email.

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-serve 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 Move On When Ready (MOWR).  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.

No.  Do not update after filing your 2016 taxes.  The 2017-2018 FAFSA requires 2015 tax information.  Using earlier year (also referred to as prior-prior year "PPY") tax information is one of the major changes to the FAFSA effective 2017-2018.  Previously, the prior year’s tax information was used.
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’s filled out).  So if you or your parent are married now but were not in 2015 (and therefore didn’t file taxes as married), the spouse’s income will need to be added to the FAFSA.

Similarly, if you or your parent filed 2015 taxes as married 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 2015 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 for 2015 if a tax extension was originally filed was October 15, 2016.  You will need to complete the 2017-2018 FAFSA after your parents have actually filed their 2015 tax returns.
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.  Effective March 2017:  The IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT) for the FAFSA is unavailable for an indefinite period.  Tax Information must be manually entered until further notice.  Click here for Press Release from IRS and Federal Student Aid.
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.  Effective March 2017:  The IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT) for the FAFSA is unavailable for an indefinite period.  Tax Information must be manually entered until further notice.  Click here for Press Release from IRS and Federal Student Aid.