Ready ... Set ... FAFSA!

September 29, 2017

By Shelbe Klebs, Graduate Policy Intern

On Oct. 1, 2017, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) for the 2018-19 filing cycle will be available for students to fill out at This year is the second in which the FAFSA will open three months earlier (in October instead of January) and where families will use prior-prior year tax information. With the start of the FAFSA season, it is important to be aware of significant changes to this year’s application, which were outlined in a recent NCAN blog post. As a refresher, some of the important ones include:

  • The restoration of the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT) for the 2018-19 FAFSA beginning on Oct. 1
  • The encryption of all information transferred from the IRS using the DRT, so applicants will not be able to see the data that have been transferred
  • Information transferred from the DRT can only be edited by higher education institutions and not by the applicants
  • Applicants who filed amended tax returns will now be able to use the DRT
  • Students up to the age of 23 may now answer the “homeless or at risk of being homeless” questions

In addition to the return of an earlier and easier FAFSA, back-to-school season in 2017 also brings updated, free resources from the Form Your Future campaign. Form Your Future encourages FAFSA completion by providing resources for students, families, and educators that cover one-on-one assistance with completing the FAFSA, in addition to ideas on how to get others involved and spread the word to encourage students to apply for financial aid. For students and parents and those supporting them, the new FAFSA Guide breaks down the form and process and details how to complete each part. For educators, there is also an Outreach Toolkit and an Event Toolkit to help spread the word about financial aid and plan events to assist students directly with completing the FAFSA. Be sure to follow Form Your Future on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to keep up with all our social media.

NCAN's work on Form Your Future helped to contribute to the increase in FAFSAs completed for the 2017-18 filing cycle. FAFSAs filed by all applicants through June 30 are up 6 percent in 2017, after a consistent four-year decline. With this increase, 61 percent of students filed the FAFSA in 2017, is a 5-percentage-point increase from 2016. In terms of total FAFSAs completed, there were 1,949,048 during the 2016-17 filing cycle and 2,128,524 during the 2017-18 filing cycle. While the earlier filing date and the use of prior-prior year tax information have resulted in more students seeking financial aid than the year before, NCAN will keep monitoring and advocating for continued growth in this area.

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