By ARIEL HERNANDEZ
Despite the excitement college students have after successfully completing an academic year, there’s one aspect of summer that everyone dreads– the torturous Financial Aid application.
President Barack Obama has enacted a plan to end the hassle.
Just last month, Mr. Obama announced a new reform that will allegedly help students during the financial aid process starting in the upcoming 2016-17 academic school year, in an effort to make college more affordable.
His reform will allow students to file their FAFSA applications in October rather than having to wait until January, and will also allow students to electronically retrieve tax information filed for a previous year rather than having to provide an estimate of what their taxes will be like that upcoming year.
According to the UT’s Director of Financial Aid, Jackie LaTorella, Obama’s Financial Aid reform allows students to fill out the FAFSA application with a tax return that had already been filed as opposed to forcing families and students to make an estimate of their expected tax return and correct it later on.
“This does two things: A: the information you are putting on the application is going to be accurate because you already filed that tax return, and B: it allows you to use the IRS data retrieval tool where your tax return data can be imported, making it more accurate rather than being error prone,” LaTorella said. “We’ve all made typos.”
Had the executive order in the previous tax year been in play for this academic school year, students who filled out their 2015-16 FAFSA application wouldn’t have been asked to submit their 2014 tax return, but instead would have been asked to submit their tax return for 2013.
“It’s amazing and less stressful that we now have the opportunity to import our tax returns,” said Amanda Sanchez, a sophomore communications major. “I always found it difficult to fill out my FAFSA when the time came because my parents didn’t know how. It now benefits both of us [her and her parents] because I don’t have to stress putting in the wrong tax information and my parents don’t have to stress having to get their taxes done because I need to do my FAFSA application.”
Considering that Obama recently announced the reform, administrators at UT are still trying to figure out how the aid process is going to change for them.
“Moving the date up from January to October is going to mean that we can begin processing aid for the new academic year three months earlier, but there is still some information that we don’t have yet so we’re not sure how we’re going to be able to accommodate,” LaTorella said. “We’re still trying to work out the details.”
In LaTorella’s opinion, it is not the schools that have a lot to figure out. She feels that the Federal Government and the United States Department of Education have to come up with a way to tell the schools how they are going to make changes so those schools can react.
“We now know the Department of Education has to make the changes, we just don’t know when and how,” she said. “Until we have that guidance, there’s not much that can be done.”
Considering that students will be awarded their funds months earlier, students and parents will be able to plan much farther in advance. This will hopefully help with student debts, considering that, as of this year, student loans are collectively totaling $1.2 trillion.
“This reform will allow me more time to plan my college finances,” Matthew McCormack, a freshman international studies major at UT said. “Receiving my financial aid award package three months earlier gives me three extra months to manage my future finances instead of forcing me to apply for personal student loans so last minute.”
President Vaughn sends a letter to students and parents every year with the Federal Aid for the upcoming academic year. The federal aid budget for the 2015-16 academic year was over $50 million.
According to LaTorella, the financial aid budget always increase each year and all the funds get disbursed with no extra aid at the end of the year.
“We don’t want to leave any money on the table because that means that there are aid programs that students could have received or benefited from and we didn’t reward it,” LaTorella said. “We make sure we award the institutional dollars that we’ve been allocated.”
The FAFSA application is what determines what aid, whether it is federally supported students loans or Pell Grants, a student is eligible for.
Ariel Hernandez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org