The launch of the 2020-21 FAFSA is right around the corner. Oct. 1 marks the first day that NCAN members can begin helping students and families navigate this tricky but extremely important form.
The biggest changes to the FAFSA this year are related to the new tax filing forms created as part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. These tax form changes resulted in a few FAFSA questions being deleted, added, or replaced. With the elimination of the 1040A/EZ forms, the new criteria question for auto-zero EFC or Simplified Needs Test formulas is now related to filing a Schedule 1. Applicants need to review the instructions for this question carefully prior to answering the question.
When it comes to verification, the items to be verified and documentation that can be used to confirm a student’s income information will remain the same as those for the 2019-20 cycle. Over the summer, the Department of Education published the official list of verification items and the acceptable documentation for the 2020-21 FAFSA cycle. As students file the FAFSA this fall, be sure to check in with the financial aid office at the institution(s) your students have applied to so that you fully understand the verification process and acceptable documentation. There are institutions that still require the actual tax transcript and/or the Verification of Non-Filing letter, and they will not accept the signed tax form or non-filing statement, except as a last resort.
For the second year in a row, filers will be able to use the myStudentAid mobile app to complete the FAFSA on their smartphone. If students downloaded the app prior to Oct. 1, they will need to download an update in order to access the 2020-21 FAFSA (once the new form is available), according to an article from NerdWallet.
As you gear up for FAFSA season, here are some helpful resources available now to support your completion efforts:
#FormYourFuture FAFSA Tracker: Refresh your memory regarding how your state, city, or high school did last year with FAFSA completion by exploring the current version of the FAFSA Tracker. For a general overview of the 2019-20 cycle, check out this blog post from our own Bill DeBaun.
Stories about successful completion strategies: The Form Your Future site features a collection of personal stories, successful tactics, and strategies that illustrate what schools and communities are doing to encourage FAFSA completion. We will continue adding new stories throughout the 2020-21 FAFSA cycle. If you have a story you’d like to share, please tell us about it!
Information and tools from FSA: The office of Federal Student Aid has a collection of educational resources, outreach tools, and other resources designed for college access and success professionals. Explore the Financial Aid Toolkit for Counselors.
These additional resources will be available the coming weeks:
Mid-to-late-September: The updated versions of our “Financial Aid Fundamentals” e-learning courses will become available. All e-learning courses are free to NCAN members.
Late September: Another tool available on the Form Your Future site is a guide to filling out the FAFSA that includes the most common questions asked by students and parents from low-income backgrounds about the form. The updated guide will be available here.
October: The updated version of the "FAFSA Completion 101" e-learning course will become available.
October: The updated version of the "FAFSA Completion 201" e-learning course will be available. The 201 course takes a deeper dive into the FAFSA filing process, covering topics such as the Student Aid Report, verification, and filing corrections.
October: The College Board is offering scholarships to students who complete the FAFSA. Encourage your students to register on the College Board Opportunity Scholarships site (if they haven’t already) and enter for a chance to win $1,000 for filing the FAFSA.
November: We will launch the #FormYourFuture FAFSA Tracker 3.0 to help you monitor FAFSA completion progress throughout the 2019-20 school year.
(Photo by Jungwoo Hong on Unsplash)
Oct. 4, 2019: This article has been updated to include additional resources.