Early FAFSA and Prior-Prior Year Income

What is Early FAFSA and Prior-Prior Year?

The Federal Government announced in September of 2015 that they were changing the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) application process beginning with the 2017-2018 academic year. For the 2018-2019 academic year, the Early FAFSA initiative will allow students to submit their FAFSA beginning October 1, 2017. Additionally, instead of being based on the prior year income, students/parents will provide their prior-prior year income on the form (2016 in this case). The White House Fact Sheet provides the rationale for these changes. 

Academic Year Tax Year FAFSA Available
2016-2017 2015 January 1, 2016
2017-2018 2015 October 1, 2016
2018-2019 2016 October 1, 2017

How Will This Affect Me?

Completing a FAFSA should now become easier, more efficient and more accurate. Some students may even receive their financial aid award information earlier. Why? 

Because you can file the FAFSA based on your prior-prior year income starting in October, most FAFSA filers will be able to use the IRS Data Retrieval Option on the FAFSA to automatically view and transfer required tax return information directly from the IRS onto your FAFSA. This increases the accuracy of information used in determining your aid eligibility and eliminates the burden of having to request Tax Return Transcripts directly from the IRS in the event you are selected on the FAFSA for the federal verification process.

There are other data elements on the FAFSA that will be specific to the application year the student seeks aid (see chart below). If offered the option to use the IRS Data Retrieval Option on your 2018-19 FAFSA, to retrieve your 2016 federal tax information right from the IRS database, please utilize this option.  It will ensure accuracy of information and may prevent you from having to submit additional tax documents later in the process. 

Income Information

Timeframe Used to Provide Information on 2018-19 FAFSA

Adjusted Gross Income 2016 (prior-prior year)
Income Taxes Paid 2016 (prior-prior year)
Income Earned From Work 2016 (prior-prior year)
Untaxed Income 2016 (prior-prior year)
Balance of cash, checking/savings accounts, investments, etc. As of the date the FAFSA is filed
Household Size Expected for 2018-19 award year
Number in College Expected for 2018-19 award year
Parent Marital Status As of the date the FAFSA is filed

How Might These Changes Affect My Financial Aid?

New, accepted undergraduate students could receive their financial aid award packages earlier than in the past if they take advantage of filing their 2018-19 FAFSA soon after it becomes available on October 1, 2017. In fact, the Financial Aid Office plans to start sending out financial aid packages to new fall 2018 accepted undergraduate students beginning in mid-November 2017. Returning undergraduate students will continue to receive their financial aid packages in late spring/summer due to required satisfactory academic progress checks.

What If My Financial Situation Changes?

Now that the FAFSA is based on prior-prior year income, some families may find that their income from two years ago is very different than what their income will actually be for the school year for which the student is applying for financial aid.  In cases where the parental income will be less for the school year in question, the student may want to request a Parent Reduced Income Form via email. In the event the student's income will be less during the school year in question, the student should request a Student Reduced Income form via email. This will enable the Financial Aid Office to assess how these income changes may affect your eligibility for specific financial aid programs.