More than 95 percent of Pacific students fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid every year and, as the March 1 deadline for the 2011-2012 FAFSA approaches, those students should know that a few changes have been made. The streamlined changes are intended to make the process easier and more efficient both for new users and returning users alike.
For starters, the FAFSA on the web has been redesigned to provide what is called “single point of entry.” In the past, there were three different pages on the website where students could scroll through various options to start a FAFSA, continue a FAFSA or make corrections. Now, there is one page that guides students through whatever step of the process is applicable.
A few new features have been implemented to help speed up the process. Perhaps the most dramatic of the changes is a link to the Internal Revenue Service database. If both parent and student have filed their taxes, the IRS database can fill in the data automatically, thus completing the FAFSA. However, according to Director of Financial Aid Mike Johnson, the technology is still new and he doubts whether this change will be applicable to any Pacific students for the 2011-2012 academic year.
One process that will function for this FAFSA is called “skip logic.”
Skip logic withholds questions that do not apply to a particular student. For example, if a female were filling out a FAFSA, the online application would recognize that the applicant is female because of earlier data and would withhold questions regarding any material that doesn’t apply to female, such as questions regarding registration for military service.
In addition to questions that don’t apply, a few other questions that have been eliminated from the FAFSA as well, including expected enrollment status at the beginning of the academic year and whether or not the student plans to become a teacher. Johnson said that the questions were being dropped because they were not necessary and most students were unsure about the answers.
A new requirement for students who reported receiving a high school degree will be the addition of more detailed high school information including the name, city and state of the institution. According to Johnson, FAFSA had been having trouble with students that hadn’t actually received their degree collecting federal aid. However, he noted that students that have completed General Education Development tests are eligible for funding.
The deadline to turn in FAFSAs is still March 1, but Johnson suggests turning it in as soon as possible. Applications are processed on a first come first serve basis until all the federal funds are allocated, but according to Johnson, just because a student turns their FAFSA in on time doesn’t mean they will receive funding.
“It’s possible to run out of money even for people who apply before the deadline,” said Johnson, “if you don’t apply by the deadline, we can’t even consider you.”