Courtesy of NASFAA | Karen McCarthy, Policy & Federal Relations Staff
The Department of Education (ED) has posted a draft of the 2018-19 Paper Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and other related documents (e.g., Paper Student Aid Report). The documents can be found under Forms and Instructions in the docket on the regulations.gov website.
Regarding the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT), ED’s summary of changes only specifies that they will make changes “to enhance the privacy of applicant and parent IRS tax return information.”
ED will also expand the population of applicants and parents who are eligible to use the IRS DRT to include those who filed an amended tax return, with the big caveat that the information transferred will be from the original tax return, not the amended tax return. The IRS will provide an indicator that communicates whether or not the tax filer amended his/her tax return. This information will be included on the Institutional Student Information Record (ISIR). As a result of this change, the FAFSA on the Web (FOTW) filtering question “Did you file a Form 1040X amended tax return?” will be removed from the Student and Parent Financial Information pages.
The draft FAFSA also makes significant changes to the wording related to homelessness to reflect a recent statutory reinterpretation that applicants aged 22 or 23 may have a homeless determination made by one of the entities currently listed on the FAFSA:
- A school homeless liaison
- A director of an emergency shelter or transitional housing program
- A director of a runaway or homeless youth basic center or transitional living program
The current statutory interpretation requires that applicants aged 22 or 23 who indicate on the FAFSA that they are homeless must rely on the FAA to set a Homeless Youth Override flag in order for the applicant to complete the FAFSA as an independent student.
New ED policy simply expands the entities that may make a homeless determination for applicants aged 22 or 23. It does not relieve the FAA from the responsibility of making homeless determinations for applicants who believe they are homeless, yet do not have a determination from one of the other permitted entities.
To reflect the statutory reinterpretation, the draft FAFSA makes the following changes in the “Notes for questions 56–58 (page 5)” section:
- The “Youth” definition bullet is removed
- “under 24 years of age and are” is deleted in the second sentence of the second paragraph so it now reads: “However, even if you answer “No” to each of questions 56, 57, and 58, you should contact the financial aid administrator at the college you plan to attend if you are either (1) homeless and unaccompanied or (2) at risk of being homeless, unaccompanied, and providing for your own living expenses – as your college financial aid office can determine that you are “homeless” and are not required to provide parental information.”·
Other significant changes include:
- In response to continuing issues defining who is a parent, the draft FAFSA removes “legal” from Question 59 so it now reads: “As of today, what is the marital status of your parents?”.
- Modifications to the Step Six instructions to indicate that state grant agencies will continue to receive the list of colleges submitted by the student. Revised instructions are: “… All of the information you included on your FAFSA, with the exception of the list of colleges, will be sent to each of the colleges you listed. In addition, all of your FAFSA information, including the list of colleges, will be sent to your state student grant agency. For federal student aid purposes, it does not matter in what order you list your selected schools. However, the order in which you list schools may affect your eligibility for state aid. Check with your state grant agency for more information.”
The supporting documents with the draft FAFSA also provided a preview of some changes that will be rolled out sometime mid-cycle after the 2018-19 FAFSA goes live on October 1, 2017:
- FOTW will use responsive web design, which will automatically adjust view settings to meet the requirements of the accessing device, including mobile devices, tablets, and standard computers.
- When a new applicant logs in to FOTW, he/she will be given the opportunity to link to the College Scorecard Web site to research colleges, and then transfer up to ten college selections into the FAFSA. If fewer than ten colleges are transferred, additional schools can be added through the current School Code Search functionality.
The 2018-19 FAFSA demo site will be available on September 24, 2017.
Comments should be submitted electronically through the Federal eRulemaking Portal by selecting Docket ID number ED-2016–ICCD–0037 or via postal mail, commercial delivery, or hand delivery. In addition, please submit a copy of your comments to NASFAA so that we can represent the interests and concerns of our member institutions.