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FAFSA moves opening date to Oct. 1

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(Graphic by Jacqueline Lin / The DePaulia)

Beginning this year, students can apply for next year’s federal financial aid as early as Oct. 1. The new deadline to apply and complete Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is months before previous years’ start date of Jan. 1. The new application window was put in place to give students more time to complete the application.

The change comes after President Barack Obama altered the window when students can apply for federal aid, an initiative that affected millions of students across the country.

For the 2017-18 academic year, students and parents will be able to use information from their 2015 tax returns.

“New students should expect to receive their financial aid award notifications earlier than in the past,” said Paula Luff, associate vice president of Enrollment Services.

“For continuing students, there will be no change in the timing of awards.”

Luff said continuing students will receive email reminders to file the FAFSA as close to the new application window as possible.

Additionally, a reminder to file the FAFSA will be visible on all students’ “To-Do” lists on Campus Connect, along with a temporary banner when students first sign in.

Richard Popp, Student Government Association (SGA) president, said the university will be adding backgrounds to campus computers, posters in hallways and SGA will be putting out social media notifications to their followers.

“It’s important that students stay aware of the messaging regarding the date change, and file as quickly as possible in order to secure the most funds as possible for the coming school year,” he said.

However, the changes are not expected to disrupt DePaul’s admissions application or the deadline.

“The availability of the FAFSA will not affect the admissions process,” Luff said. “DePaul does not have a deadline to file the FAFSA, other than before the end of the academic year, for which financial aid is being requested.

“This still has students concerned about what impact the changes will have.

“I honestly don’t know what these changes are going to do because you still have to use previous taxes,” DePaul sophomore Margaret Gibbons said. “I think it will affect students’ grants and scholarships because that is actually given out with aid. Because if you have a big change going on in the year, or if you like lose your job or make a lot less, that’s going to affect it significantly.”

This new application start date will not affect the urgency aspect of applying for aid, as the amount given out is still limited.

“However, students who rely on Illinois MAP grant funds are encouraged to file as soon as possible after Oct. 1, 2016 for the 2017-18 academic year since those funds are limited and awarded by the state on a first-come first-serve basis,” Luff said.

To expedite the process, students or their parents can submit prior tax information with ease of the application procedure.

“My daughter is in grad school and it was really arduous filling out all that paperwork,” said Linda Ball, a parent and DePaul graduate student. “From a parent standpoint I think the earlier date works out fine.”

The primary reason for the change is to allow more time for students to fill out their FAFSA forms.

“The 2015 federal tax information will be used for the 2017-18 year. Students and parents will not be required to update that information with 2016 tax information,” Luff said. “Only 2015 tax information is necessary for the 2017-2018 year.”

Gibbons said she thinks it will be a challenge because she doesn’t see any point in opening up the financial aid process sooner.

“Considering the date and using prior year tax returns, it’ll be handy for continuing students who can use their same tax returns that they used the last time they filed the FAFSA,” Popp said. “Additionally, you can link your FAFSA application directly to the IRS and gather the official data on file instead of populating the fields on their own.”

Popp said the most important thing is awareness. “DePaul Central is pushing out the message that change is coming,” Popp said.

“Upon the opening of the FAFSA, SGA will continue with our ‘Keep Calm and do the FAFSA’ campaign and use various advocacy methods in order to make this change known to students at DePaul.”

Learn more about FAFSA

Where:
Loop campus
DePaul Center Gallery
(11th floor)

When:
Wednesday, Oct. 5
11 a.m. – 3 p.m.

Where:
Lincoln Park campus
Student Center Atrium 

When:
Thursday, Oct. 6
11 a.m. – 3 p.m.

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FAFSA moves opening date to Oct. 1