FAFSA Changes of Note for 2018-19

By MorraLee Keller, Director of Technical Assistance 

Last week our friends at the U.S. Education Department’s Federal Student Aid office conducted a webinar highlighting the changes for the 2018-19 FAFSA. The good news is that there are a limited number of changes for us to absorb; FSA is working on updating all of the federal resources related to 2018-19 and expects to release those in September.

Here is an outline of the changes: 

  • The FAFSA webpage address has changed to https://fafsa.gov. This will help increase security and privacy for FAFSA users. Please update any resource materials or web links you currently use. The Department will redirect www.fafsa.gov through the end of the calendar year.
  • The IRS Data Retrieval Tool will be restored Oct. 1, when the FAFSA opens, but only for the 2018-19 FAFSA. Applicants wanting to complete the 2017-18 FAFSA will still need to manually enter all the data fields.
  • Changes to the DRT designed to increase the security level for applicants include encryption for all data transferred from the IRS. For example, the Adjusted Gross Income field will not contain numbers; instead it will read “Transferred from the IRS,” to prevent individuals attempting to hack the database from accessing any real information. Applicants will not be able to see the transferred numbers on the IRS screens, nor on the FAFSA screens when they return to the FAFSA, or on their Student Aid Report. Families will not be able to correct any of the fields transferred from the IRS. Any changes needed in those fields due to professional judgement or something else will need to be made by the institutions. Families who manually enter the data, meanwhile, will be able to see all numbers entered.
  • If an amount greater than $0 is transferred from the IRS into the Untaxed Portions of IRA Distributions field or the Untaxed Portions of Pensions field on the FAFSA, the applicant or parent will be required to answer a new question about whether that amount includes a rollover. If the applicant or parent answers “yes,” they will be required to provide the amount of the rollover in a new entry field.
  • Applicants and parents who filed a joint tax return will no longer be able to transfer their combined income earned from work onto the FAFSA from the IRS DRT website. These joint filers will now be required to manually enter their income earned from work. Single applicants and single parents will continue to have their income earned from work transferred from the IRS onto their FAFSA.
  • Applicants who filed amended tax returns will now be able to use the IRS DRT. The DRT will transfer the tax information on the original tax return filed, and the colleges will receive a code to let them know there is an amended form on file and that they need to collect information from the amended form.
  • A new disclaimer page will appear for everyone immediately after the FAFSA’s login page, to aid department efforts to prosecute anyone who fraudulently uses the FAFSA for financial gain. Applicants will need to agree with the disclaimer to proceed through the FAFSA.
  • There is a slight modification in the wording for the parent marital status question. The word “legal” will be moved from opening part of the question and become only associated with those answering “unmarried and both legal parents living together.”
  • Students up through age 23 may now appropriately answer the “homeless or at risk of being homeless” questions. Previously, the form defined those individuals as youth ages 21 or under.
  • Taxable college grant and scholarship aid reported to the IRS as income will be the new wording on question 44D in the student section and the words “Your Parents” will be added to question 93D in the parent section. This question is one that continues to be answered incorrectly.
  • To be inclusive of the transgender community, the gender question will read, “Were you born male or female?”
  • The FAFSA Help Page has been reorganized with a parent section to help them more easily locate answers.

Please make sure to share these updates with all your colleagues as we get ready to move into a new FAFSA season.