FAFSA® Early Submission Changes for 2017-18 (Prior Prior Year)

President Obama recently announced significant changes to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) process. One of these changes is to allow families to use income data from an earlier tax year, sometimes referred to as prior-prior year (PPY). The current Federal Methodology used to calculate a student's financial need uses prior year (PY) income data. Beginning with the 2017-18 FAFSA, students will report income information from an earlier tax year. For example, on the 2017-18 FAFSA, students (and parents, as appropriate) will report their 2015 income information, rather than their 2016 income information.

When will these changes occur?

Starting with the 2017-18 FAFSA, students will be able to file as early as October 1, 2016 rather than beginning on January 1, 2017. Please keep in mind that this will be a permanent change moving forward.

Here is a table with a summary of the changes:

If You Plan to Attend College From You Can Submit the FAFSA From Using Tax Information From
July 1, 2015-June 30, 2016 January 1, 2015-June 30, 2016 2014
July 1, 2016-June 30, 2017 January 1, 2016-June 30, 2017 2015
July 1, 2017-June 30, 2018 October 1, 2016-June 30, 2018 2015
July 1, 2018-June 30, 2019 October 1, 2017-June 30, 2019 2016
When will the FAFSA be available?

For current students (seniors) the FAFSA cannot be completed until January 1, 2016. For example, for the 2016-17 school year, an applicant cannot complete a FAFSA until January 1, 2016. Beginning with the 2017-18 school year, applicants will be able to complete a FAFSA as early as October 1, 2016. Please refer to the above table.

What Tax information should I use?

Beginning with the 2017-18 FAFSA, students and parents, as appropriate, will report income information from an earlier tax year. For example, in the 2017-18 FAFSA, applicants will report their 2015 income information, rather than their 2016 income information. Please refer to above table.

Will it be easier to submit my income information?

More students and families will be able to complete their FAFSAs using information retrieved electronically directly from the IRS a few months after they and their parents file their 2015 tax returns, reducing the number of applicants who need to estimate income or taxes paid.

What is the IRS Data Retrieval Tool?

The IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DTR) allows students and parents to access the IRS tax return information needed to complete the FAFSA and transfer the data directly into their FAFSA from the IRS Web site.

Will students still be required to complete the FAFSA every year?

Yes - Eligibility for federal student aid does not carry over from one award year to the next. Students and parents need to fill out the FAFSA for each award year in which they plan to be a student. One important reason to fill out the FAFSA every year is because a student's eligibility for financial aid can differ from year to year. Please keep in mind that after the first year in school, the student will be able to complete a Renewal FAFSA, which will prefill the application with information from the previous year's FAFSA.

How will this impact the Pennsylvania State Grant?

The current deadlines for applicants will remain the same:

  • August 1—All first-time applicants at a community college; a business/trade/technical school; a hospital school of nursing; a designated PA "Open Admission" institution; or enrolled in a non-transferable 2-year program.
  • May 1—All other applicants.

In addition, these new changes will have no impact to the Pennsylvania State Grant eligibility requirements.

Will this impact how asset data and family size/number enrolled in college are to be reported?

No. The instructions to the FAFSA will be the same as they have been for each question. Report the net worth of assets as of the date you file the FAFSA (if required) and for family size/number enrolled in college, project who will meet the requirements for the award year (ex: July 1, 2017 to June 30, 2018).

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