FAFSA and TCU to include two years of tax income data



President Barack Obama speaks in the gym at Coral Reef High School, Friday, March 7, 2014, in Miami. Obama traveled to the Miami school to unveil a new initiative to ensure more students complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), a document required for most types of school financial aid such as Pell grants. (AP Photo/Javier Galeano)

Filing for federal financial aid is going to get a little less complicated.

Starting in October, students and families filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) will be able to use tax information from two years ago. The current FAFSA application requires tax information from the most recent tax filing, which often caused problems when it came to filing the FAFSA on time.

Michael Scott, the director of financial aid and scholarships at TCU, said the main reason they’re going to the Prior-Prior Year, using two years of information, is to reduce confusion.

“I think the biggest impact or the biggest benefit [is that] it will just make this simpler,” said Scott.

Beginning Oct. 1, 2016, high school seniors will be the first class to use the new FAFSA application. This will allow seniors to file the FAFSA three months earlier and, in turn, find out their eligibility for financial aid sooner.

The higher education community and the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators have been pushing to include Prior-Prior Year tax income data on the FAFSA. On Sept. 13, 2015, President Barack Obama took executive action to allow the use of PPY on the FAFSA.

The implementation of PPY tax income data on the FAFSA is intended to benefit students, parents, guardians and universities.

“The data submitted by students applying for financial aid for the 2017-2018 academic year will be from their 2015 federal tax returns,” said Scott.

There will be some cases where the financial circumstances within a family change. A parent could lose a job or there could be a family illness that affects finances. With those special cases, Scott said, “professional judgment” will be used to reassess a student’s financial aid.

Several universities, both private and public, have decided to include PPY tax income data into their financial aid applications.

TCU will change its financial policy to include PPY information around the same time the FAFSA implements the change. TCU wants to be consistent with the government to make the application process less confusing for applicants and their parents.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story included a quote from Michael Scott that incorrectly stated which year’s federal tax return would be used for the 2017-2018 academic year. The 2017-2018 academic year will use federal tax return data from 2015.