When students apply for financial aid for the Fall 2019-Summer 2020 school year, the FAFSA and the Department of Education use income information from 2017 to determine eligibility for need-based aid programs like the Pell Grant.
What happens if things change significantly between 2017 and 2019?
Life happens. Sometimes the student or a parent loses a job, for example, or a home, or has a big drop in income.
If things have changed between 2017 and the time when a student starts the 2019-2020 college year, the student should have a conversation with the financial aid office at their college right away.
But families still have to fill out the 2019-2020 FAFSA using the 2017 information.
Even if things have changed since 2017, when filling out your aid application students and parents need to answer the questions as they are being asked - so give 2017 answers if that's what they are asking about.
The result might be that students receive an EFC (expected family contribution) that is higher than what seems right given their current circumstances. The college financial aid officer has the authority to make adjustments to the FAFSA based on those changes in circumstance - so that's who students need to explain things to.
Families should be prepared to write a statement or letter clearly explaining any changes and to have any kind of documents or evidence that show or prove what you're talking about.
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