Major changes to 2017-18 FAFSA to benefit students

JOHNSON CITY, TN (WJHL) – Major changes were made this year to the way college students can apply for financial help.

The FAFSA is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, and new changes to the form will benefit students and parents.

Joshua Jarnigan has spent the past five years guiding Science Hill High School students.

One of his duties is helping them make critical college decisions.

“A lot of them are coming from a place where they’ve never had anyone do this before,” Jarnigan said.

Part of Jarnigan’s job is walking students through the financial aid application process, including the FAFSA.

“It’s a form that you fill out for student aid,” Congressman Phil Roe said.

This year it is getting two major changes.

“The biggest change is you can now use your 2015 tax information to do this year’s FAFSA,” said Jarnigan.

That means students no longer have to estimate tax returns.

“They don’t even have this year’s income yet, you were asking them to do something they can’t even do,” said Roe.

Another change is moving the application date from January 1 to October 1, so the FAFSA for the 2017-18 school year is now already available.

“Students are going to know sooner how much money they are going to get from the colleges so they can make their decisions on where they’re going to attend,” Jarnigan said.

Counselors like Jarnigan said they are seeing the benefits from adding on those extra few months.

“Already we’re able to help students and sit down with them and not feel so rushed through the process,” he said.

Jarnigan’s message? Don’t procrastinate.

“We want to make sure we start now so that the students that qualify for state funding have a better chance of getting it,” Jarnigan said.

Because according to Roe, “The goal at the end of the day is to make college or technical school… it’s to make you marketable in today’s world.”

An important reminder – the deadline to file the FAFSA for Tennessee Promise is January 17th.

Copyright 2016 WJHL. All rights reserved.

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