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This Year, Try the DRT!

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) for academic year 2022-2023 is now available. As you prepare to complete and submit the new FAFSA, don’t forget about a handy tool that’s offered to you–the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT).

At your request, the IRS DRT will automatically transfer your financial information from the required tax return to your FAFSA, saving you all the time you would normally spend entering the information yourself.

The FAFSA will ask you a few questions to determine your eligibility to use the DRT; if you are deemed eligible, you’ll be asked if you want to automatically transfer the information from the IRS to your FAFSA. Using the IRS DRT ensures the financial information on your FAFSA will be reported accurately, meaning a financial aid office will have one less reason to contact you for additional information.

To learn more about the IRS DRT, visit StudentAid.gov.

FAFSA Update

Before completing your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), there is a new update you’ll want to review.

“The American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act was signed into law on March 11, 2021. The ARP made the first $10,200 of unemployment benefits non-taxable for each taxpayer with incomes less than $150,000. The untaxed portion of unemployment benefits increases to $20,400 for applicants who have a tax filing status of married-filing-jointly (if both tax filers received benefits).

FSA expects to see an issue with aid eligibility determination for some 2022-23 FAFSA filers as well as Income Driven Repayment applicants for whom loan payment amounts are based on 2020 tax information, even if the IRS DRT was used in either circumstance.

Tax filers who received unemployment benefits in 2020 and filed taxes prior to March 11, 2021, will have a higher Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) on their original tax record compared to those who filed (or amended) after the enaction of the ARP. 

FAFSA filers who meet the conditions above and use the IRS DRT for the 2022–23 year will have a higher AGI, resulting in a higher EFC which may potentially reduce their eligibility for federal need-based aid.

Financial Aid Administrators are encouraged to work with applicants affected by the ARP who filed their taxes before March 11, 2021, to use professional judgement to adjust the applicant’s AGI (or the AGI of the applicant’s parents or spouse, if applicable) as appropriate.”

For more information, visit https://fsapartners.ed.gov/knowledge-center/library/electronic-announcements/2021-09-30/impact-american-rescue-plan-change-tax-treatment-unemployment-benefits-student-aid-eligibility-cycle-2022-23 or https://www.irs.gov/forms-pubs/new-exclusion-of-up-to-10200-of-unemployment-compensation.

The FAFSA is Now Available!

A new Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) becomes available each year on Oct. 1. The FAFSA for the 2022-2023 academic year is now available and high school seniors should be prepared to submit their application as soon as possible.

Your FAFSA will be used to determine your eligibility for federal and state financial aid—money that will help you pay for college. Since some types of aid are first-come, first served, it’s important to submit your FAFSA as soon after Oct. 1 as you can.

Here are some things to remember:

  • The FAFSA is free; you should never have to pay to submit your FAFSA.
  • It’s a snapshot of your (and possibly your parents’) financial situation which is used to determine how much aid you may be eligible to receive.
  • When you submit a FAFSA, you’re not making any commitments to attend a certain school or to borrow student loans; you’re merely giving permission to the college(s) of your choice to discuss your financial aid options with you.
  • The FAFSA’s not a one-time thing. You’ll need to submit a new FAFSA for each year that you need help paying for college.
  • To submit your application online, you’ll need to set up a Federal Student Aid ID (FSA ID)—a username and password that will serve as your electronic signature. A parent may also need to create their own FSA ID. To create an FSA ID, go to StudentAid.gov and choose ‘Create Account.’
  • Once your FSA ID is established, you can use it to complete your FAFSA at StudentAid.gov anytime on or after Oct. 1.

There are two questions that will appear on the FAFSA again this year, but are no longer valid.

  • One question asks males: “Do you want us to register you with the Selective Service System?” Although federal law still requires males age 18-25 to be registered with Selective Service, it won’t affect your eligibility for aid if you haven’t registered yet and choose not to register on the FAFSA.
  • The other question is: “Have you been convicted of the possession or sale of illegal drugs for an offense that occurred while you were receiving federal student aid?” While this question has never affected high school seniors, those who have received federal student aid in the past will no longer lose their eligibility due to a previous drug conviction.

Financial aid officers at the colleges you’ve listed on your FAFSA have been instructed to ignore any comments on these two questions so that you will qualify for student aid if otherwise eligible.

For more information about the FAFSA and federal eligibility requirements, be sure to check out other articles on this website, view the resources on UCanGo2.org and visit StudentAid.gov.

Completing the 2022-23 FAFSA

It’s almost time to start the 2022-23 Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA! This application will help determine your financial aid eligibility if you plan to attend college in the fall of 2022. We’ve created a helpful list of steps to guide you through the application process.

  1. Gather Materials: Before getting started, you’ll need to make sure you have your Social Security card, current bank statements, and your 2020 W2 and tax return. If you’re a dependent student, you’ll also need your parent(s)’ financial information and 2020 tax returns.
  2. Create an FSA ID: The FSA ID, or Federal Student Aid ID, is a username and password that you’ll use to log in to your FAFSA. It will also serve as your electronic signature for completing the application. To create a FSA ID, visit fsaid.ed.gov. Remember to use our FSA ID Worksheet (also available in Spanish) to keep track of your username and password. If you’re a dependent student, a parent or guardian will also need to create a FSA ID.
  3. Fill It Out: Starting Oct. 1, you can access the new FAFSA at FAFSA.gov.
  4. Sign & Submit: Enter your FSA ID for your electronic signature. If you’re a dependent student, remember a parent will have to provide their electronic signature, as well. Don’t forget to click ‘submit’ at the bottom of the screen!
  5. Follow Up: Keep an eye out for a Student Aid Report (SAR) email, as well as information from the colleges you applied to. Sometimes campuses ask for additional paperwork, so watch for possible requests. If you have any questions after receiving your financial aid offer, follow up with the financial aid office at your campus.

For more details, check out the Finish the FAFSA in Five Steps guide or watch the Finish the FAFSA in Five videos on the StartWithFAFSA website, available in both English and Spanish.

Changes to Look for on the 2022-23 FAFSA

While big changes are planned for the FAFSA later down the road, there are two changes that are already in effect that you need to know about.

Two questions on the FAFSA will no longer be used to determine a student’s eligibility for federal financial aid—the Selective Service question and the drug conviction question.

  • Do you want us to register you with the Selective Service System?
    Males ages 18-25 who complete the 2022-23 FAFSA will still see the option to register if they haven’t yet done so, but it’s no longer a requirement for males to be registered to receive federal financial aid.
  • Have you been convicted for the possession or sale of illegal drugs for an offense that occurred while you were receiving federal student aid?
    This question will also appear on the 2022-23 FAFSA, but a previous drug conviction will no longer disqualify a student from receiving federal financial aid.

Once a FAFSA is processed, the Department of Education may still place comments on the Institutional Student Information Record (ISIR) of a prospective student regarding these questions, alerting a financial aid office they must take steps to resolve either issue before the student can be eligible for federal financial aid. But as of June 7, 2021, financial aid personnel have been instructed to ignore the comments that would deny eligibility based on the answers to these two questions.

Students who’ve already been denied federal financial aid for the 2021-22 academic year for reasons related to the Selective Service and/or drug conviction questions will receive an email from the U.S. Department of Education or Federal Student Aid (FSA) informing them of the recent changes and advising them they may now be eligible to receive federal aid for the academic year beginning this fall. Affected students should contact the financial aid office at their institution(s) of interest to ask for a review of their eligibility requirements.

Don’t forget to complete your FAFSA as soon as possible after Oct. 1!

Who’s My Parent on the FAFSA?

The answer to this question depends on your dependency status. If you’re considered an independent student, meaning you’ve answered YES to at least one dependency question on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), you’ll report your own information (and your spouse’s, if married).

If you’re a dependent student for FAFSA purposes, you’ll need to provide information about your legal parent(s) on the application. A legal parent is your biological or adoptive parent, or your legal parent as determined by the state (for example, if the parent is listed on your birth certificate). If you have a stepparent currently married to your legal parent, you generally also must provide information about him or her.

If you need to report parental information, here are some guidelines to follow:

  • If your legal parents are married to each other, include information for both of them on your FAFSA.
  • If your legal parents (biological and/or adoptive parents) are not married to each other and live together, include information for both.
  • If your legal parent is widowed or was never married, include information only for your legal parent.
  • If your parents are divorced or separated and don’t live together:
    • Include the information about the parent you lived with most over the last 12 months. Also provide information for the stepparent, if your parent has remarried.
    • If you lived with each parent for an equal amount of time, include information for the parent who provided you the most financial support over the last 12 months, or during the most recent 12 months that you received support from your parent(s). Also provide information for your stepparent, if your parent has remarried
  • If your parents are divorced but are still living together:
    • Report their status as ‘Unmarried and both legal parents living together’
    • Include information for both parents
  • If your parents are separated but are still living together:
    • Report their status as ‘Married or remarried’ (not ‘Divorced or separated’)
    • Include information for both parents

One exception to note: The FAFSA will ask about your parents’ education level. Please answer the questions about the education levels of your birth or adoptive parents. A stepparent is not classified as a parent for those questions.

Be sure to check out UCanGo2’s Dependency Questionnaire for more information.

Everyone Should Apply

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) for the 2022-23 academic year will be available October 1. Anyone who is thinking about attending a higher education institution next fall, whether it’s a career school, technology center, college or university, should submit a FAFSA. Most everyone qualifies for federal financial aid to help pay for their post-secondary education. There is no income cut-off to qualify for student aid, and many factors are considered. Each prospective college student has a unique set of circumstances, so the only way you’ll know if you’re eligible to receive aid is to submit the FAFSA application at StudentAid.gov.

Be sure to submit your FAFSA as soon as possible after Oct. 1, since some forms of aid are first-come, first served. You could be eligible for ‘free money’ that doesn’t have to be repaid or for work-study opportunities. Student loans may also be a part of your financial aid offer; when used wisely, they can be a smart investment in your future.

Remember:

  • Apply on or after October 1
  • Renew your FAFSA each year that you’ll need financial aid
  • Always apply at StudentAid.gov

To learn more about the different types of financial aid, visit StudentAid.gov.

Gather Your Tax Information

When you submit your FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid, on or after Oct. 1 this year, you’ll be required to report your income and tax information, along with that of your parents or spouse, if applicable. When you complete the new FAFSA for the 2022-2023 academic year, you’ll need your 2020 tax return and W-2s.

Instead of manually entering your tax information on the FAFSA, many applicants will choose to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT). The IRS DRT automatically transfers the income information from your tax return directly into the FAFSA.

Even if you use the DRT, it’s still helpful to have your tax return and W-2s on hand when you complete your FAFSA. Here’s why:

  • If your tax return was submitted as ‘Married Filing Jointly’ and the two people who filed the joint return are reporting their income on a FAFSA, they’ll still need to report their individual incomes separately. The W-2s will indicate the specific income for each.
  • Occasionally, the IRS website may be slow, or the IRS DRT connection may be a little uncooperative. It’s also possible that a filer may not qualify to use the DRT. In order to continue completing your FAFSA, you may find it easier just to enter the income and tax figures yourself. In order to do that, you’ll need your tax return. The good news here is that the FAFSA will direct you to the correct line on the tax return for the information requested.

Gather your tax returns before you start the FAFSA so you’ll be prepared. Having everything on hand will make the process go much faster and easier. Remember, Oct. 1 is right around the corner!

The FAFSA is Always Free!

College is an important financial investment in any student’s future. Between talk of scholarships and savings plans, it’s exciting to come across something completely free. The FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is one step in the college financial process that won’t cost you a cent. The FAFSA is an application that will help determine your eligibility for financial aid. The official application can be found at FAFSA.gov. Other websites may offer to process the application for you for a fee, but these sites are scams and are not the official free FAFSA application.

When filling out the free application on FAFSA.gov, you’ll need a FSA ID (Federal Student Aid ID). This is a username and password that you’ll use to log in to your application. It will also serve as your electronic signature. Create your FSA ID at fsaid.ed.gov and save your information on our FSA ID Worksheet. Once you create your FSA ID, you’re ready to log in to your free application. After your application is completed, the colleges that you applied to will send you a financial aid offer. This offer will list the amount and types of federal and state financial aid awarded to you. Remember, the official application is on FAFSA.gov and the FAFSA is always free!

What’s the FSA ID?

October 1 is just around the corner, which is the day the 2022-23 Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, becomes available. The FAFSA is used to determine your eligibility for various forms of federal financial aid like grants, work-study and student loans. To ensure you’re prepared to submit your FAFSA after Oct. 1, create your FSA ID (Federal Student Aid ID) early. This ID is the username and password you’ll use to log in and sign the FAFSA, along with other financial aid documents. One of your parents may need to create a FSA ID, as well. Here are a few tips to help with the process.

Provide personal information. When creating your FSA ID, you’ll be asked to provide your birthdate, Social Security number, phone number and physical address. The same is true for your parent(s). If your parent(s) doesn’t have a Social Security number, they won’t be able to create an FSA ID. They will, however, be able to sign your FAFSA another way. To learn how to sign the FAFSA without a FSA ID, visit StudentAid.gov.

Choose the right email address. You and your parent will also need to enter an email address. Your email address must be different from your parent’s. Be sure to use an email address that’s not issued by your school, since you won’t have access to that email account once you graduate. To ensure you receive all important information on your financial aid eligibility, provide a personal email address when creating your FSA ID.

Select challenge questions. To help with resetting your password for the future, you must select four challenge questions and provide the answers to them. You’ll choose these questions from a drop-down menu. Use our FSA ID worksheet to keep track of your answers.

Allow enough time. It takes about 10-20 minutes to create the FSA ID. As with the FAFSA, give yourself plenty of time to do this. Try to complete the FSA ID process in one sitting, as you won’t be able to save your information and return later to finish this step. Also, it’s important to be near your mobile device and have access to your email during this process. Secure codes will be sent to these devices for confirmation, and you’ll be required to enter them within a limited timeframe to create your FSA ID. By creating your FSA ID before starting the FAFSA, you’ll be better prepared for the entire completion process. Create your FSA ID today at StudentAid.gov.

To learn more about the FSA ID and FAFSA process, visit StartWithFAFSA.org. This website provides information on FAFSA completion and financial aid programs. Check out our FAFSA learning modules and the FSA ID PowerPoint which walk you through completing your FAFSA and setting up your username and password. And don’t forget to complete your 2022-2023 FAFSA on Oct. 1!