Financial Aid before the FAFSA: What is the Prior-Prior Year?

prior-prior year

Written by Jason

It is simple: I envisioned Campus to Career Crossroads helping students have successful outcomes, dreamed up by the students themselves. Our mission at Campus to Career Crossroads is to develop a supportive and individualized partnership with you and your family to help you navigate the complex stages from high school and throughout your career. Let's work together!

Last updated Jun 22, 2021 | Published on Feb 5, 2019

The thought of filing a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form can be intimidating and confusing to many families. What I often find to be the first point of confusion for many families is understanding the correct base tax year that the FAFSA will use to calculate their son or daughter’s first year of college. Many families assume that the taxes they file in their son or daughter’s senior high school year will be used for the first year FAFSA calculations. Unfortunately, that is the incorrect answer as the base tax year used is actually their son or daughter’s high school sophomore year.

President Obama made the change in October 2016, for the 2017-2018 academic year, that the FAFSA will be based upon the tax information from the previous two years, which is commonly known as the prior-prior year. The goal of this change was to help families better understand affordability earlier in the process and to avoid the excessive burden of loans for students and their families. The information below provides a yearly breakdown for your reference of the high school graduation year and the corresponding base tax year for the FAFSA:

Graduation Year       Base Tax Year 

2021                             2019

2022                            2020

2023                            2021

2024                            2022

2025                            2023

In conjunction with this change, President Obama also moved up the beginning of the FAFSA filing period from January 1st to October 1st each year. This change was designed to help families have more time in comparing college costs and making a better informed decision. Many people do not realize that each presidential administration, as well as the elected government officials of that state, make important changes to federal and state financial aid programs each year.

While many families quickly dismiss the FAFSA as they believe they will not qualify, there is a movement that many colleges are now using the FAFSA to determine institutional merit aid awards which are non-need based aid. Considering the expensive total cost of a college education, it is important for all families, regardless of income, to understand the base tax year of the FAFSA.

Campus to Career Crossroads, uniquely provides independent educational college consulting that can encompass the full spectrum of college admissions and the complex financial aid process.  If you are concerned about college costs in the months or years ahead as doubt, confusion, and regret should not be part of the college journey. Please contact Campus to Career Crossroads today.

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