The date to file for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) has changed to Saturday, Oct. 1, three months earlier than the previous filing time. President Barack Obama changed the filing date from Jan. 1, following recommendations from the Department of Education. Due to the change, applicants will use their 2015 tax information on the application, the same information used for the 2016-17 FAFSA.

“According to [the Department of Education], they felt it would be a better opportunity for high school students to coordinate with students applying to college with the FAFSA,” Director of Student Financial Aid and Veterans Affairs Donna Price said.

The change also lets applicants use the previous year’s tax information as opposed to information for the current year.

For example, in 2015, when students applied for aid for the 2016-17 school year, they used taxes from 2015. Under the new rules, students will use the 2015 tax information when applying to receive aid during the 2017-2018 school year.

“You need to be thinking about your aid for next year. Saturday, Oct. 1, is when you would apply for aid in Fall 2017 and Spring 2018,” Price said. “It sounds weird, but if you’re a student who receives any grant aid you need to apply as early as possible.”

Financial Aid has advertised the new filing period to students on several platforms including email, text message and paper fliers. Price said the office may also set up informational tables in the Morgan University Center to answer students’ questions directly.

According to APSU’s Common Data Set for 2015-16, of the 6,798 full-time students in 2014-15, 6,326 students applied for need-based financial aid. Ultimately, the university awarded 4,786 applicants with need-based financial aid or grants.

According to the Common Data Set, the average financial aid awarded to full-time students was $7,518.

Filing a FAFSA makes students eligible for Federal Pell Grants as well as federal subsidized and unsubsidized loans.

While the application date may be earlier than before, Price does not expect aid amounts to be announced any sooner.

“Students may expect that if they do their FAFSA by Oct. 1, they may expect an award notification by Dec. 1, or Jan 1, and that may or may not happen unless we receive everything we need from the [Department of Education.]”

Price said the biggest challenge for the university will be getting current students to apply at the right time.

“I really want students to think in terms of ‘October’ and not ‘January’,” Price said.

The change allows FAFSA applicants to automatically fill in their IRS information to prevent mistakes in the application process.

“It’s much easier to use the data from the IRS. It saves you a lot of time,” Price said. “It does not guarantee you will not be selected for verification, but it definitely reduces the risk of being selected.”

Financial Aid has information about the FAFSA and the financial aid process on its website at www.apsu.edu/financialaid.