By: Anika Nahar – Copy Editor
A new FAFSA rule will allow WPUNJ students to jumpstart the financial aid process and give them the opportunity to receive their awards several months in advance.
The newly implemented rule now permits students to start applying for financial aid as early as Oct. 1 instead of the original date, Jan. 1. Students can also use their income tax data from the previous tax year in the hopes of making the arduous process a little less complicated.
“It’s not enjoyable and it is something that people want to put off,” said Michael Corso, the director of financial aid at WPUNJ. “But it’s something that really needs to be done as soon as possible. This way, it’s best for the students and their families to know what they’ll receive.”
Currently, 814 WPUNJ students have not yet filed a FAFSA, Corso said.
The state agency HESAA, which stands for Higher Education Student Assistance Authority, provides NJ students and families with financial and informational resources for students and has need-based programs like the TAG (Tuition Aid Grant) program. The original deadline to file for the state grant was set at June 1 of any given year.
New Jersey has now moved that deadline up to April 13.
The new deadlines have been implemented to provide more time for students to fill out their applications. That also means students don’t have to wait for the FAFSA information they need to fill out their tax returns.
Corso encouraged starting the application early and treating FAFSA as a serious matter.
In another change, continuing students will need to finish the verification process before they receive their financial aid awards, which is another change implemented from past years.
“It is to ensure that a student is not in the middle of their semester and they submit their documents and it changes their financial aid,” Corso said. “And now, they’re left in the middle of the semester without the financial aid that they thought they would be receiving.”
Corso also recommended students use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool, which automatically transfers the student’s federal tax return information into the financial aid database.
“The tool ensures the accuracy of your records and prevents many families from losing their financial aid because of … errors,” Corso said. “It will also make the process much faster.”
“There’s very little you have to do other than sign the FAFSA electronically and submit it,” Corso said. “Much of the information is already prepopulated from the previous year.”
The process has become much easier. However, some students still face issues when applying for loans.
“One of my parent-plus loans was taken away because I live with my grandparents,” said Stephanie Harden, a communication student. “They’re basically like my parents and I had to take a year off from school to save up in order to come back.”
Joseph Hickey, a public relations major, was part of the NJ STARS program, a scholarship program for New Jersey residents that covers the cost of tuition at the state’s 19 community colleges. “The two years that I’ve been paying out of pocket have been ridiculously hard,” Hickey said. “Waiting on the FAFSA lines was one of the worst college experiences and they made it seem as if they weren’t even on my side.”
Many scholarships are available for students who may have trouble allocating the necessary funds to pay for school, Corso said.
“Every spring, our Office of Institutional Advancement has scholarships from the alumni and foundation group,” Corso said. “Every student can apply for the scholarships, even if they have never received them before.”
The scholarships become available in April and the links can be found on WPUNJ’s financial aid website, where information regarding external scholarships and federal work-study programs is also provided.