Financial aid changes affect students on Missouri Southern campus

Changes to student financial aid are making their way across the country.

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid program, FAFSA, will be transitioning to a new system beginning with the 2017-2018 academic year. These changes would allow the program to use applicants’ tax information from the previous two years in an effort to eliminate current issues students face in the application process.

Presently, the FAFSA application process requires the most recent tax information from students. However, with the yearly April 15 deadline to file taxes, some students don’t get their taxes filed until after university deadlines for application.

“Part of the problem our students have when they’re applying for financial aid is that they have to rely on their parents submitting taxes,” said Darren Fullerton, vice president of student affairs. “If their parents don’t submit taxes until April, then students can’t apply for FAFSA until that time.”

With this change in the application process, students will be able to fill out their FAFSA paperwork as early as October, according to Fullerton.

“This gives them almost eight months’ advantage to where many of our students are applying, so that’s a tremendous asset to them,” said Fullerton.

A potential setback for student financial aid, however, would be the expiration of the Perkins Loans program. Currently, 258 students on campus receive Perkins Loans, which provide on average $1,700 per student.

Unless Congress reauthorizes the program by the end of the month, the program will expire. As of press time, a reauthorization has not been made.

“That money is administered by the University and the money we collect off of those loans is what we can put back into that,” said Fullerton. “If that’s not reauthorized and that program is phased out, we would no longer be able to add people to that.”

If the Perkins Loan program does expire, students would still be eligible for other loans. The advantage of Perkins loans, says Fullerton, is that they allow those students to petition to work off their loan amount and provide possible loan forgiveness.

“That’s something we’ll be monitoring for our students,” he said.