It’s Jan. 1, and it’s the first day to apply for FAFSA. For transfer students and incoming freshmen, this can be a stressful period. Being unsure if he or she will be able to make ends meet and attend the school of their dreams is a factor for many. Next fall, however, students will be able to relieve some of that stress.

Starting October 2016, college students will be able to complete the FAFSA application three months earlier. Currently, students cannot complete their FAFSA until Jan. 1.

“The problem is families don’t have their taxes done,” Plattsburgh State Director of Financial Aid Todd Moravec said. “On Jan. 1, 2017, I can’t do my taxes for last year. They’re not really due until April.” The problem is that a family needs to put in estimates for their taxes and then go back to correct them, or they wait until they finish their taxes to complete their FAFSA.”

PSUC childhood and special education major Krysta Ortega agreed. “If your parents haven’t done their taxes, you have to wait. It’s just a pain; I hate dealing with it.”

Moravec explained the financial aid community made two changes — the date on which students can complete their FAFSA forms and a solution to the issue of tax due dates. Because taxes are due Jan. 1, prior-prior year was added. Prior-prior year means applicants can base his or her FAFSA data on their taxes from the year before.

“They (financial aid community) have been talking about it for a while,” Moravec said, adding that he was surprised the government decided to go to a prior-prior year.

The benefit of this change, Moravec said, is that students will get a better sense of college costs earlier. It will also be simpler because students will be able to import all the information to their FAFSA and won’t have to wait until their taxes are done.

In a recent Washington Post article, Education Secretary Arne Duncan addressed the issue.

“You have high-caliber students who don’t apply to elite colleges because they think they can’t afford them. Many elite colleges have larger endowments and can offer more financial aid … we think some of that under-matching will go away.’”

Moravec also said he believes some students don’t realize that larger schools often award scholarships of a higher monetary value.

“Had they applied, they would realize that it is affordable because they’re going to get very large scholarships. It would actually be less expensive,” Moravec said. “If you look at the actual loan rate from kids who go to some of these Ivy League schools, it’s a lot less. It’s $6,000 compared to Plattsburgh and others that are in their 20s.”

PSUC environmental science major Kelly O’Keefe said she still wouldn’t apply to a bigger school because of the stress of completing FAFSA application.

“I’m lazy. I wouldn’t even know where to begin,” O’Keefe said. “I was really stressed out about applying to schools at the time, but that doesn’t mean that other people shouldn’t have a chance to do it.”

Communications disorders and sciences major Abby Hanlon said pushing the date back would be helpful and that it would help people figure out their college decisions. When Hanlon was applying for college, she didn’t apply to schools that cost $60,000, as she knew she could get scholarships based on merit but wasn’t sure about receiving financial aid.

“My family doesn’t get a lot of financial aid or assumed they didn’t,” she said.

Email Patrick Willisch at patrick.willisch@cardinalpointsonline.com

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