FAFSA reforms expected under new administration
For the financial aid year of 2017-18, two major changes have been made, but more are to come under the new President Donald Trump administration.
"Every time that the administration changes, some things change. They don't usually change quickly," associate director in the Office of Financial Aid Val Meyers said.
Meyers said with the new administration in control of the Department of Education it depends on Congress to make changes that normally take a year or even two years to occur.
"There are a lot of different things that have changed, and all that they need to do really is look at what the Congress and the president have talked about," Meyers said. "Now President Trump has not talked a great deal about education, but the Congress, the people who are in charge of the education committees in Congress, have started to talk about some of the things they want to change."
Some of these changes include the simplification of the application for parents and students in addition to the accountability of federal funds.
"The other thing they'll always be concerned about is funding," Meyers said. "They may change the kind of aid that's available, they may change the amount of aid that's available. But again, that would be something I would not expect to see until at least next year or maybe the year after."
The first change made nationally was moving the opening date of the application to Oct. 1, which started in 2016. The change was made to give students more time to file, since in prior years when Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, opened on Jan. 1, Meyers said students often felt rushed.
"I live really far away so I don't have many chances to go home, so having such a big window to make sure that I'm able to be home at some point during that to work on it with my parents (benefits me)," music and advanced mathematics sophomore Kayla Makela, who filled out FAFSA in October 2016 when it opened, said.
The second change national change is the Department of Education is using the tax year of 2015 for the 2017-18 year. If a student were to fill out their FAFSA sometime in 2016, they could run into the issue of the tax year not being over yet.
"The whole goal is simplification," Meyers said. "That's so much easier than pulling out your old tax returns and trying to key the data in or to try and guess what your taxes were, so they're really trying to make it easier for people to apply online."
Makela said she believes the goal of simplification was reached.
"It was really easy, especially now because you can just connect it with your tax information and it kind of just fills in the rest of the information for you," Makela said. "It took like 10 minutes."
Financial Aid has always been there so students can afford the school they were eligible to get accepted into, but Meyers said the goal is adjusting.
"If you got into MSU or U-M, you should not have to say, 'Oh I can't go just because I can't afford it,'" Meyers said. "That was the original goal. Unfortunately, that's probably not true anymore, at least not completely true anymore, because costs have gone up a lot and the amount of financial aid that's available has not. But what you're trying to do is at least give people a shot at getting the kind of education that they want. That's the goal, it's accessibility."
In Makela's experience, financial aid helped her as a student and helped her attend MSU.
"I mean, it's the only way I can attend college," Makela said. "That kind of money is not something a lot of people just have to spend, and this was an opportunity I never really thought I would have."
The deadline for the 2016-17 academic year filing in Michigan is March 1. For more information, go to fafsa.ed.gov.