New rules = a simpler FAFSA that college-bound students can now file three months
WASHINGTON, DC – In an effort to help college bound Rhode Islanders access
much-needed financial aid, U.S. Senator Jack Reed is urging high school seniors and
their families to get started filling out the Free Application for Federal Student
Aid (FAFSA), on October 1 – three months ahead of the traditional January 1 date.
That is because a new federal rule allows students planning to attend college in the
fall of 2017 to start applying for state and federal financial aid beginning
tomorrow, October 1.
The FAFSA is used to help determine a family’s expected annual contribution to
college expenses and eligibility for need-based federal aid, such as Pell grants.
It is also the form Rhode Island residents complete to determine eligibility for
Rhode Island Promise Scholarship, a program that is available to Rhode Island
residents attending colleges or universities in Rhode Island.
Last year, the Obama Administration announced that beginning this fall families
could submit their FAFSA forms in October, so that colleges can get financial aid
award offers into the hands of students sooner, enabling students to make more
informed decisions about their future and how to finance their education. In the
past, many high school students had to decide what college they would enroll in
before knowing how much financial aid they would actually receive.
«If you are planning to attend college next year, start your homework now by filling
out the FAFSA. Getting an early start can literally pay off. Filing early helps
students get a more complete picture of their eligibility for federal, state, and
school financial aid and their college costs,» said Senator Reed.
One of the reasons Reed is urging Rhode Islanders to apply earlier is because too
many students limit their college applications and miss out on aid because financial
aid is awarded well after the application process. Too many students, fail to apply
for aid at all. Last year, students in Rhode Island left over $6.7 million in
federal Pell Grant money unclaimed in the 2014-15 academic year, according to a
released by the personal finance website Nerd Wallet. The report found that nearly
4,000 of Rhode Island’s high school graduates (approximately 36 percent) did not
complete the FAFSA form in 2014. Of those, 1,897 likely would have qualified for a
Pell grant, which is a free form of federal aid based on income that students are
not required to repay. The report shows that on average, students in Rhode Island
who completed the application and got federal Pell grants for the 2014-15 academic
year were awarded about $3,570 each.
«I have long advocated for simplifying the FAFSA, and this year, critical
improvements have been made to help busy families save time, and to ensure that
eligible students are actually getting the assistance they need,» continued Reed,
who authored a key provision in the Higher Education Opportunity Act to help
simplify and streamline the FAFSA and make it easier for students and their families
The new FAFSA includes online tools that enable families to import their tax return
information right into the application. And this year, families can use their tax
information from 2015, instead of having to wait for their 2016 returns.
«If you’re not ready to fill out the FAFSA today, that is okay. October 1st is the
kick-off, not the deadline. But again, I urge Rhode Islanders not to delay.
Filling out the FAFSA can increase your odds of obtaining need-based aid. And it
will provide you with critical information about your financial aid so you can make
informed decisions as you consider paying for college,» concluded Reed. «And
fortunately, in Rhode Island, there is plenty of help to get you through the
process. Talk to your school counselor, take advantage of the services offered by
the College Planning Center, and go to FAFSA.ED.GOV to get your questions answered.»
There is no cost to file the FAFSA form on the federal website
Rhode Islanders in need of assistance may also get free assistance from the RI
Student Loan Authority: https://www.risla.com/college-planning-center