Changes to financial aid for 2017-18 college applicants

Parents whose children are or thinking of heading off to college should get ready to apply for financial aid earlier than in past years as you are now able to file as early as Oct. 1.

Director of the College Place-CT Holly Franquet visited Shelton Highschool Monday, Sept. 19 to make her annual presentation about filing and the entire financial aid process. She explained the importance of applying for financial aid as early as possible to assure the student receives as much money as possible.

The Department of Education announced that the changes to the process of filing for financial aid will give a student more time to file as well as decrease the potential for mistakes in the financial data you are required to provide.

Under the new process, FAFSA can be filed as early as Oct. 1st for the 2017-2018 academic year. Previously, the application wasn’t available until Jan. 1. This gives parents an additional three months to submit necessary information. It should be noted that although more time is granted for the submission of a parent’s tax records and other information, the earlier FAFSA is submitted, the earlier you will know how much financial aid your child qualifies for.

The second change was designed to simplify data collection. When completing FAFSA under the new rules, you will use income tax information from the last year for which taxes have been filed.  

When completing FAFSA in Oct. 2016 for the 2017-18 academic year, you will use information from your 2015 tax return which is typically completed and filed with the IRS by April 2016. Prior to these changes, tax information was required from the most recent tax year, even though the actual tax return for that year could possibly have not been filed with the IRS.

These changes were designed to address problems related to timing and accuracy of provided financial data. Franquet explained that in the case of a student being accepted to college as early as December in their senior year of high school, their worries of being rejected are reduced, but it could mean they’re agreeing to attend a college or university before knowing how much financial aid they were awarded.

Shelton High counselor Kathy Riddle emphasized the importance of students taking advantage of all scholarships and free money available to them.

“I have a friend who passed away from Lupus and so her parents created a $5,000 scholarship in her name,” said Riddle. “They deducted it in half now because only about 25 kids out of a graduating class of 400 applied… Our last scholarship that we give out at our annual awards ceremony is the Percy Kingsley scholarship, named after a previous superintendent, and it generally is around $14,000 a year. The only thing a student has to do to qualify is sign and date their name. Guess how many applied for the scholarship last year? 11 out of a class of almost 400 students.”

Franquet said even if your child is a sophomore or junior in high school, it isn’t too early to discuss college, their plans and your ability or inability to help pay for their tuition.

“Many families don’t have that conversation and then when it’s time to apply for schools the students are blown away by the costs of tuition and really don’t have a plan in place to pay for it,” said Franquet.

The annual college fair at SHS is scheduled for Monday, Sept. 26 from 6:30- 8:30 p.m. There are currently 155 colleges/military organizations confirmed to be attending the fair.

For more information on the process of applying for financial aid, contact Holly Franquet at [email protected] or 203-455-7858.

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