FAFSA updates good for students

Daily Editorial Board

President Barack Obama announced changes to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid process on Monday. Starting fall 2016, students can complete their FAFSAs using their families’ tax information from two years prior, and they will be able to access the form much earlier. These small changes have tremendous implications for students. 
 
Currently, students can only access FAFSA in January of the year in which they are applying for aid. The new change will allow students to begin to complete their forms in October 2016 instead of January 2017. The ability to use tax information from two years ago means students will no longer have to wait to receive the previous year’s tax data, which could facilitate a quicker turnaround time for award notifications. 
 
Advance notice of financial aid awards makes choosing a college much easier. Many students apply for college before receiving the results of their FAFSA. Earlier notice is especially beneficial to low-income students. Studies show that high-achieving, low-income students are less likely to apply to selective colleges even when they would
probably be admitted and also be eligible for significant financial aid packages. 
 
These new rules could help the approximately 2 million eligible students who never apply for financial aid and therefore miss out on it. We commend the federal administration for making commonsense, student-friendly changes to FAFSA. We hope researchers pay attention to college enrollment levels in the coming years to determine the effects of the changes.