February 23, 2019 | 43° F

White House to implement big changes for FAFSA

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is an inevitable and oft-dreaded aspect of college life. The FAFSA official website estimates that it will take about 55 minutes to complete the multi-paged form. But for many students, this process can take double that time.

But on Sept. 14, President Obama announced that a number of changes will be made to facilitate the financial aid process for millions of students around the country. The Obama Administration implemented several changes that will streamline the application and increase access to grants and loans.

“In all, up to 30 burdensome and unnecessarily complex questions would be eliminated, shortening the FAFSA application substantially, and making it easier for students and families to access critical resources to pay for college,” according to the Office of the Press Secretary.

These changes will go into effect for the 2017-2018 academic year, not the 2016-2017 academic year, said University spokesman E.J. Miranda.

“For 2014-15, 72.2 percent of undergraduates received financial aid,” he said. “That is, out of a total of 46,809 undergraduates, 33,004 of them received financial aid.”

Those figures reflect the student population that received aid last year, Miranda said. Currently, the University is still in the process of actively assisting students and the statistics for this year are not available to date.

The directors of Financial Aid at Rutgers—New Brunswick and Rutgers—Newark were unable to respond to an interview request.

According to the Student Aid government website, students will be able to submit their FAFSA as early as Oct. 1, 2016.

When applying for Financial Aid for 2017-2018, students will be able to use tax information from two years prior. This is known as prior-prior year (PPY) tax information.

Stephen Payne, an associate for the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA), said NASFAA extensively studied what prior-prior might mean for the United States and its students these last two years.

“What we found in our study was that there wasn’t too much impact in their awards, and so moving to a prior-prior year system would then allow students and families more time to consider their options when it comes to financing their college education,” Payne said.

The online FASA application form has an IRS data retrieval tool, according to National Public Radio (NPR). But because most people file their taxes after the FAFSA deadline, most students are unavailable to make use of this time-saving tool.

With the advent of PPY tax information, all students will have the ability to use the IRS automatic form filling tool for PPY tax information, thus expediting the process, according to the NPR article.

One Mason Gross School of the Arts graduate student, who wished to remain anonymous, said filing for financial aid is a lengthy process, but that it is not particularly confusing either.

“This is my second time filling it out, being that I’m a graduate student and I don’t really find it that confusing,” she said. “A lot of the information stays on the form from when you’re an undergrad, so you just have to update the information.”

With regard to the new FAFSA changes, she approves and hopes to see a decrease in the amount of time it takes to fill out all the pages of the document.

“I like that because … having to figure out this line and its association to the tax form is actually the most difficult part of filling out the FAFSA. Hopefully it will cut back on the amount of time needed for filling out the application.”

Anthony Salas, a School of Arts and Sciences first-year student, said he never had any problems filing his FAFSA application. 

But he said the process would be considerably easier if there was more information provided regarding whether or not grants are given out and when and where on the term bill the financial aid information is posted. He did not find any of this out until after he applied the first time around.

"It's really a win-win for everybody," said Justin Draeger, president of the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators, in an interview with NPR. "Ultimately, this is going to mean less work for (students) and less work for schools."

Francesca Falzon

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