The UW-Madison Office of Student Financial Aid has moved toward no longer being "paper-pushers," as many other financial offices are, according to the office's Communications Manager Karla Weber.
The financial aid office held their first annual open house Tuesday for students to visit the office and learn about recent changes to financial aid and the Free Application for Federal Student Aid in general.
The open house was an experiment to familiarize students with the office and make them aware of their multiple sub-offices around campus.
The biggest change to the office is the move to verifying a student’s FAFSA forms online through the financial aid website, as opposed to how it was previously done on paper.
“We historically ask of students and their families, in addition to completing their FAFSA and documentation to substantiate the information they already completed,” said Financial Aid Director Derek Kindle.
He explained this shift in mediums occurred because in the past students could be selected, as part of federal requirement by the Board of Education, to have their information verified by the university. This process, originally internal, will now “create greater efficiencies” by having that process online.
An additional change to students’ overall financial aid went into effect in October 2016. This policy shifts the previous year of tax returns students would use to fill out their FAFSA for the current year. For example, students would use their 2015 tax returns for their 2017 FAFSA forms. They will always use two-year-old tax data from now on, due to the change in availability dates for the forms from Jan. 1 to Oct.1.
“So if you think about it, a family is filing their taxes and they want to wait, like I would wait, until Apr. 15,” Kindle said. “[This] is very close to the May 1st deadline for a student who is trying to decide where to go to school. This enables both the student and the parent and universities to make earlier decisions, so we can get the information to you so you can make your decision. For continuing students, it’s just a whole lot easier because you can do it earlier.”