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FAFSA Changes for the Better, Have you Filed Yours?

Student applications for federal student aid are being accepted as of the beginning of October, under program changes announced by President Obama last year.

Under the new rules, students can file for FAFSA beginning Oct. 1, instead of waiting until January. The new date also has students using the prior year’s taxes, meaning the FAFSA for the 2017-18 school year is filed using the 2015 tax information.

A presentation for new perspective students highlighting the change and other financial aid information was held Thursday, Oct. 6, by the Eastern Panhandle Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc. and the Shepherd University office of financial aid. The presentation covered various types of financial aid along with the process of applying using the updated FAFSA. Another FAFSA change permits use of the IRS Data Retrieval Tool for tax and income information, saving the time of having to hand enter all of the prior tax information and making the process quicker and less frustrating.

Joyce Cabral, Shepherd director of financial aid, said she is optimistic and excited to see how this can help students. This change is in Cabral’s words, “To allow families a longer period of time to make decisions about college. It allows more time to make an informed choice.”

Cabral also voiced possible challenges accompanying the change, noting that changes in income after the prior year’s taxes could mean more need for what counselors call “professional judgment,” meaning that students will need to speak with counselors and do some additional steps if income has changed.

When asked what the most important things students need to remember about financial aid and the changes, Cabral said, “Remember the March 1st priority deadline for the state of West Virginia has not changed for students.” She also reminds students to file quickly and to check their Shepherd emails regularly and respond to emails from financial aid.

“We don’t send junk mail! If it’s from us it’s important,” Cabral said.

Jessica Sharpless is a reporter for The Picket and can be contacted via email

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