Edvisors, publisher of free web sites that help students and families plan and pay for college, has identified several key trends on the horizon for 2016 that will affect students.
“These trends are important because the affect how students picks the right school for them, apply for financial aid, and pay for college. Students and their families will see some immediate changes next year, such as having two versions of the FAFSA form, as well as potential longer term changes based on election-year campaign promises,” said David Levy, editor of Edvisors.com and co-author of Filing the FAFSA.
Here is a list of key trends in paying for college that Edvisors has identified for 2016:
• Two FAFSAs in 2016 provides more flexibility. High school seniors and college freshmen and sophomores applying for financial aid will need to file two Free Application for Financial Aid (FAFSA) forms next year. In addition to a FAFSA for 2016-17 academic year, available Jan. 1, 2016, students filing for the 2017-18 academic year must use a new FAFSA form available Oct. 1, 2016. Another change: to make it easier to complete the 2017-18 FAFSA, you will use income and tax data from the prior-prior year (2015) rather than from the immediate year (2016) so it won’t hold up the process if you and your parents haven’t filed your 2016 taxes yet.
• Keeping the college list confidential. For high school seniors and transfer students applying for financial aid, colleges will no longer see the names of other schools you listed, starting on your 2016-17 FAFSA forms. (Previously some colleges used the order of colleges you listed — generally ranked in preference order — to influence their admission and financial aid decisions.) However, the list of colleges will still be submitted to your state so it can evaluate your eligibility for state grants.
• Student debt will continue to climb. Sorry, but without any legislative change, we expect the average student debt when you graduate to match, if not surpass, the $35,000 level incurred by the class of 2015. The average debt load will affect your future career choices since six months after you graduate, you will need to pull down a salary that can cover your daily expenses plus start paying off your loans.
• Expect to get more grants next year as part of your financial aid package. Student debt is increasing but, according to the College Board’s most recent “Trends in Higher Education” report, the average grant increased $570 while the amount that students borrowed in Federal loans declined by $720. The increase in grants is good news: since grants don’t get repaid, they reduce your end cost of a college degree. It could mean the difference between going to a private institution or a public university or a community college.
Edvisors publishes free web sites to help students and families plan and pay for college. Every year, millions of students and their families turn to the company’s flagship site, Edvisors.com, for timely, accurate information, advice and tools that help them confidently make the best decisions about paying for college. Additionally, Edvisors owns ScholarshipPoints.com, where students earn points and enter scholarship drawings (the site has awarded more than $750,000 to date); StudentScholarshipSearch.com, a large free online database of scholarships with an easy-to-use scholarship matching tool; and PrivateStudentLoans.com, which helps students find private loans that are right for them. Founded in 1998, Edvisors is based in Las Vegas, Nevada. More information can be found at www.edvisors.com.