The White House recently made two big announcements which will affect the way high school students apply for college. The first, involves big changes coming to FAFSA, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, which will allow students and families to apply for financial aid earlier in the college application process. The second, involves a new tool, the College Scorecard, which will allow students to rate colleges based on what matters most to them. NSHSS would like to make sure all its high school members, their parents, and educators are aware of these changes, so they can make better informed college decisions.
An Earlier, Easier Process for Federal Financial Aid
Traditionally, students have had to wait until January to fill out FAFSA, but beginning in 2016 students will be able to apply for financial aid starting as early as October. More importantly, this will allow students to use income data from the most recent tax return they and their parents have filed (in 2016 this will refer to the 2015 tax returns) instead of having to wait until next year’s tax season to finalize their FAFSAs and learn about their financial aid. Additionally, students will be able to retrieve this “prior-prior” year income data electronically, directly from the IRS, further simplifying the application process. This will reduce the number of applicants who need to estimate income or taxes paid, only to correct their application later.
The main benefit this will have for students and families is that it will allow them to get a reliable understanding of their aid eligibility as early as the fall – the same time many high school students are searching for, applying to, and even selecting colleges.
A New Redesigned College Scorecard – at CollegeScorecard.ed.gov –
Students and their parents can now visit the newly redesigned College Scorecard, basically a search engine for colleges, which provides national data on college cost, graduation, student loan debt, and post-college earnings. Students can also look up information of students’ outcomes at specific colleges, including former students’ earnings, graduates’ student debt, and borrowers’ repayment rates, and allows them to compare this data to that of other similar schools. This website hopes to provide students with better data to help them make the college decision that best suits their personal and professional goals.