One Simple Policy Change Could Revolutionize Access to Financial Aid

May 12, 2015

By Elizabeth Morgan, Director of External Relations

The benefits of allowing prior-prior year income information on the FAFSA far outweigh any disadvantages, and the U.S. Department of Education should use its existing regulatory authority to made the change today, according to a report issued May 6 by the National Association of Financial Aid Administrators.

“NASFAA has long advocated for a move to prior-prior year information, and we now have the evidence to show there’s no reason to delay its implementation. The endorsement of prior-prior year in this report is particularly significant because it is representative not only of the financial aid community, but also represents views from admissions officers, state grant agencies, and college access programs,” said NASFAA President and CEO Justin Draeger.

“This report solidifies the financial aid community’s commitment to prior-prior year and dispels the concerns raised in the past about the change,” Kim Cook, NCAN’s executive director, said. “Having the support of the higher education community is key to achieving this vital policy objective.” The report makes clear that the move to prior-prior year income data will not lead to an increase in Pell Grant awards based on increased use of “professional judgment” by financial aid administrators and finds that most states and higher education institutions will readily move to the usage of prior-prior year income for their own student aid programs.
The change to use of prior-prior year tax information on the FAFSA – as opposed to one-year prior information – would increase the form’s accuracy and give families an earlier and better idea of their college costs, long before tuition bills begin to arrive. NCAN member organizations could dramatically reduce the time spent on FAFSA completion and follow up. The idea has quickly gained widespread, bipartisan support among members of Congress. If the U.S. Department of Education does not act to implement prior-prior year, NCAN is hopeful that Congress will address the solution through legislation.

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