Navigating the big decisions together

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 

2019                              2017

2020                             2018

2021                              2019

2022                             2020

2023                             2021

In conjunction with this change, President Obama also moved up the beginning of the FAFSA filing period from January 1 to October 1 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 education college consulting that can encompass the full spectrum of college admissions and the complex financial aid process. Please contact Campus to Career Crossroads 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.

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