The Student News Site of Bellevue West Senior High School

The Thunderbeat

The Student News Site of Bellevue West Senior High School

The Thunderbeat

The Student News Site of Bellevue West Senior High School

The Thunderbeat

FAFSA changes affect seniors as they prepare for college

The Department of Education has made various changes to the Free Application for Student Aid that will affect many seniors this year. 

One of the biggest changes to the FAFSA this year that seniors probably already know about is it is not opening in October like it has since 2016.

 “We’re hoping that it’s going to open sometime in December,” counselor Randy Schultz said. 

This may cause delays for students, colleges, and scholarships relying on the FAFSA.

“Colleges that are waiting to see what you might have qualified for now, instead of starting in October, aren’t going to start till December, or likely January,” Schultz said.

Students may also not know what scholarships they qualify to apply for until much closer to their deadlines.

 “There are some scholarships and situations where it’s going to crunch the timeframes down a little bit, that [students are] going to have to do their FAFSA and work on getting some stuff submitted for scholarships just in quicker order,” Schultz said.

To help with getting these things filled out Bellevue West will hold FAFSA completion events as they have in the past,  just later this year due to the push back. 

“The hard part for families with all of it is they like to know a little sooner than later what their college looks like financially,” Schultz said. “If you were a family who was thinking you were going to qualify for a Pell Grant, which then opens up a ton of other financial aid for a state college or a public university, if you don’t qualify for that Pell Grant, now suddenly, how you’re paying for college alters drastically to other scholarships and grants.”

Parents must fill out a form

“So the big one that I would say is more important this year than it probably has in previous years is you have to have your FSA ID done for both the student and the parent or parents that are going to have to fill out the FAFSA for the student this year,” Schultz said.

Once this is complete it may take up to three days for approval in order to start the actual FAFSA form. Because of this, it is recommended students create their and their parents FSA ID as soon as possible or at least before the FAFSA opens. 

“It will be one of the things that when we hold completion events, the first thing we’ll tell parents is that, you have to have your FSA ID done before,” Shultz said.

Things you will need to know to get a FSA ID include your legal name, your social security number, and your parent’s legal name.

“If your parents go by Rob, but their name is Roberto, you have to have Roberto in there, whatever is going to show up in our social security card,” Schultz said

Other things to consider is if you use a hyphen in your name or have two last names, and whether these things are part of your legal name or not. 

“Those things have to match or it will cause the FAFSA to be delayed and not processed, until they get that fixed,” scholarship coordinator Kathie Britten said. “It’s kind of a pain to get it fixed.”

Separate Portals for Parents and Students 

Another change is that students must add their parents social security number, as parents will have their own separate portal of information to fill out. 

“In the past, I as the student could create the FAFSA, and then I could just put my parents’ information in because we filled out the same form,” Shultz said. “That changes this year.”

Required Items 

The FAFSA will now also require students to provide a phone number and email. 

“One of the things that we tell students and we’ll harp on, is you have to use a personal email,” Shultz said. “Our school filter only allows certain things to come through. It’s locked down for students this year, which was something brand new, and [the FAFSA is] not something on the approved list as of right now.”

Other Changes 

Some other changes that may not apply to all students are that family farms will now count as assets along with family businesses. 

“In the past, you had to hit a certain number of employees, to have your stuff on there as an asset,” Schultz said. “That’s no longer the case. Anybody who has a small business now has to report the assets of that business as part of their assets.”

“This along with students not being able to account for their siblings in college, is likely to lower the amount of financial aid available to students. 

“So if you’re in a family where you have maybe two older siblings that are in college right now, in the past that might generate some financial aid for you,” Schultz said. “That’s not going to be the case this year.”

More changes are also being made for students with divorced parents.

“In the past, it was always, if you had a divorced family, it’s who you lived with the most out of a 12 month period,” Britten said. “Now, it’s who makes the most money, who can contribute the most to you.” 

If students are confused on how changes could impact them, especially some smaller changes made to the FAFSA regarding students impacted by divorce or child support it is recommended you speak to a school counselor or Education Quest. 

Whether these changes will be positive or negative in the long has yet to be determined.

“It’s been described as easier and better for students, but we haven’t had a chance really to go in and do it yet,” Schultz said.

One of the main concerns is that no one knows what will qualify a student for a Pell grant, federal money that individuals in low-income households can use to fund their undergraduate education.

“It’s hard because we don’t have any data yet from the new changes,” Britten said. It’s really hard to say how it’s going to affect (us).”

Either way if students are considering college as the next step Schultz said it is important to fill out the FAFSA.

“If you are financially strapped and you want to go to college, filling out that FAFSA can open up a floodgate of financial aid to you as a student,” Schultz said. 

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