PPY To Make FAFSA Easier, Better for Low-Income Students

October 21, 2015

By Carrie Warick, Director of Partnerships and Policy

In September, President Obama announced a BIG win for college access – starting in the fall of 2016, the FAFSA form will be available in October and families will be able to use their income information from the already completed tax year. Using the older income information is known as “prior prior year” or PPY. This move to a “Fall FAFSA” provides several benefits to students. They will be able to apply for financial aid before applying to college, which will allow them to start the admissions process knowing how much federal aid they will receive. Reserving the order of this process will give students more time to decide where to go to college. Additionally, using earlier tax year information will mean that already completed taxes will be used as the basis for the FAFSA form. This technical change means families will not have to scramble to complete taxes in a rush just to complete the FAFSA.

NCAN has advocated for this change for several years, and NCAN members are excited about their important role in this step forward for our students. Dalia Wimberly, director of program administration for the Emily K Center in Durham, NC, calls PPY “an absolute game changer for students." A student from College Forward in Austin, TX, says that “If students were given the ability to apply for financial aid in the fall time of their senior year. . . it will give them three additional months to pick a college that is right for them.” See what Dalia and other members and students are saying about this change to FAFSA.

The Fall FAFSA will debut on Oct. 1, 2016. Completing the FAFSA in October will give students information for which federal student aid they qualify. This switch in the current timetable will allow students to be more knowledgeable about their financial position, and they can use this information when deciding where to apply to school. With the extra time between the FAFSA filing and the college application deadlines, students can do additional research on schools that may fit their financial situation. 

Filing the FAFSA in the fall, using the tax information already completed in April, also means that students will be able to immediately use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT). This tool allows students to import information from their tax forms, but only if their taxes have been complete for more than two weeks. In today’s system, this limitation puts a strain on families to complete their taxes at least two weeks before early financial aid deadlines, many of which are March 1. Depending on when tax forms are received, this is virtual impossible for many families. Using the prior-prior year tax information and filing in the fall will allow families to complete their taxes by the April 15 deadline and have that data ready to go for retrieval in the fall.

FAFSA completion is one piece of many in the puzzle that is applying for college. Moving the FAFSA forward in the timeline is a huge advantage for students, as long as states and institutions do not drastically change their behavior. The benefit to students assumes that selective schools will keep their January application deadlines and that states will not move their financial aid priority deadlines even soon. It also requires states and institutions to use PPY for their aid distribution as well. If states and institutions move their deadlines, then this big win for students could have several unintended consequences, which decrease this benefit to students. 

More information from the U.S. Department of Education is available at:


  • Students and families interested in learning more should visit StudentAid.gov/fafsa-changes
  • Educators, counselors and college access professionals can learn more at FinancialAidToolkit.ed.gov/fafsa-changes

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