Applying for College Just Got A Little Easier
Identifying colleges to apply to and filling out applications for financial aid are challenges that overwhelm many students, especially first-generation students whose parents do not have experience navigating the system.
The US Department of Education recently launched the College Scorecard, a tool designed to help students and families to research college and universities and to make more informed decisions. The tool includes all sorts of data about over 7,000 colleges throughout the United States. Highlights include information on a college’s average annual cost, graduation rate, salary after attending, average debt at graduation, and socio-economic and racial diversity.
Many low-income students are deterred by the high published price of selective, private colleges. The site includes the ability to calculate your personal net price for a given college, allowing students to better understand what they are likely to actually pay after federal, state, and institutional financial aid are taken into account.
Changes to FAFSA and Tax Information
It was also recently announced that students completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) will be able to use their family’s prior-prior year tax information when applying for aid for the 2017-2018 school year. Under the current system, the FAFSA becomes available on January 1 of each year, and students must use their family’s prior year tax information. For many students, this means that they are unable to complete the FAFSA until April – well after they have been offered admission and very close to the deadline to commit to a college.
With prior-prior year tax information, students will be able to apply for financial aid in October, using their previous year’s tax information which can be inputted automatically using the IRS’ Data Retrieval Tool. This will bring the financial aid application process in line with the college application timeline, and allow students to compare financial aid packages before accepting an offer of admission.