AUSTIN (KXAN) — Wednesday is the priority deadline to submit FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) to Texas public colleges and universities.
High school seniors and anyone in college already should submit the form in order to find out how much financial aid — federal, state and institutional — they’re eligible for.
“Every year we get a chunk of students who think that, ‘Oh, I don’t need to fill this out; it’s optional,’” said Jaime Ayala, student success coordinator at College Hub, a service of the nonprofit Foundation Communities. “And although the form is optional, really if you want any additional aid, even student loans, it’s not as optional as you think.”
By submitting by the priority deadline, Ayala explained, students are put in the front of the line for any additional aid colleges and universities provide. All FAFSA applications are due by the end of June, but those submitting after Wednesday, Jan. 15 do not get priority treatment.
Increase in early applicants
In 2019, Texas moved up its priority deadline two months to Jan. 15, catching many students off-guard.
As of Jan. 3 this year, about 126,000 Texas high school seniors had submitted their FAFSA forms, representing about 36% of eligible students. That’s up about 6,000 applications from that time last year. At the end of the application period last year, 60% of eligible students had submitted their forms.
But Ayala, who helps students prepare their FAFSA forms through appointments, said he’s seen about 150 fewer clients come in for the free help this year.
What to know
Before starting the online process to fill out your FAFSA, make sure to have tax returns ready. This year the financial aid form will be based on returns from 2018.
Parents will need their returns if their child is considered a dependent, and students will need theirs if they work.
The process to fill out the application is simple, Ayala said, and it can take longer to create an account than to enter the relevant information to see how much aid a student qualifies for.
Mandatory in 2021
Filling out a FAFSA (or TASFA, the Texas Application for State Financial Aid) is optional for now, but starting with seniors in the fall of 2021, it will be mandatory under Texas’ sweeping House Bill 3.