WEST CHESTER (September 14) – College-bound students and their families should know that the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) will now be available on October 1 three months earlier than in previous years – state Senator Andy Dinniman announced today.

“High school seniors and other prospective college students will now have more time to apply for financial aid and can receive notifications of financial aid packages sooner,” said Dinniman, who serves as Minority Chair of the Senate Education Committee and also on the Council of Higher Education of the Pennsylvania State Board of Education.

The FAFSA determines eligibility for federal grants, state grants, many scholarships, student loans and work-study programs.

The U.S. Department of Education made this date change to better align the financial aid application process with the actual college admissions timeline.

saving for college“The FAFSA is the most important application for college-bound students who are seeking financial aid,” Dinniman said. “Not only is it required for federal student aid, it is used to determine eligibility for a host of scholarships and grants, including private grants, need-based scholarships and state programs like the Pennsylvania State Grant Program and work-study employment.”

The deadline for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) for the Pennsylvania State Grant Program is May 1, 2017.

The date change also allows applicants to complete the 2017-18 FAFSA using more readily available financial information from the 2015 tax year. The former January 1 date required income from the tax year that had recently ended. Since most individuals are unable to access the necessary tax information, such as wage statements, to file their tax returns in early January, they had to complete the FAFSA using estimated data and amend that information after they filed their returns later in the year.

Another benefit of being able to use 2015 tax return data is that more applicants can use the Internal Revenue Services’ Data Retrieval Tool, which automatically fills in the FAFSA form through an embedded link in the form.

“In today’s economy, it is more important than ever for prospective students their families to apply for student aid to help with the costs of higher education,” Dinniman said. “If you plan to start college in the next fall, I urge you to get started on the application process because some aid is available on a first-come, first-served basis. In addition, remember that different universities may have different FAFSA deadlines.”

For more on the higher education financial aid process, schedules for upcoming FAFSA Completion Session, reminders of financial aid deadlines and information on planning for higher education costs, visit PHEAA.org or follow PHEAA on Facebook.

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