By Samantha Lund '16
PLU Marketing & Communications
TACOMA, WASH. (October 28, 2015)-Pacific Lutheran University is on the cutting edge of the U.S. government’s financial aid process.
The National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrator (NASFAA) was looking to recommend changes in how students submit their Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) forms. But first, they needed schools to help them out.
Kay Soltis, PLU’s Director of Financial Aid, offered up PLU’s financial aid historical information as part of the government’s research. From there, Soltis became a key player in the new government financial aid initiative, Prior-Prior Year (PPY), which will allow schools to use a family’s tax information from two years prior to establish a financial aid offer.
In the current system, families have to wait till the end of the tax year and then file their FAFSA beginning January 1 of the school year they plan to attend. From there, some are selected to have their information verified before an offer of financial aid is complete.
Time is a critical factor, says the NASFAA. Under the current structure, delays can cause an unfavorable chain reaction: A delay in completing the tax return can mean a delay in submitting the FAFSA, which can result in a delay in financial aid notification and possibly a reduced amount of financial aid.
In the new system, PPY will allow schools to use information from two years prior that already has been verified by the IRS–meaning the information will be more accurate, and the schools will do less searching and estimating of a family’s financial status.
“This is going to be such a great thing; nobody needs to be afraid of the change,” Soltis said. “It allows us to provide students and their parents with information about their aid and helps them make an informed decision about college affordability.”
With PPY, families can apply for FAFSA when they apply for schools; they’ll receive their financial aid offers earlier; and the offers will be more accurate allow families to plan better in case there’s new information or chances in the family situation.
Soltis worked with NASFAA and the U.S. Department of Education on the PPY project and is currently helping to prepare colleges for the change. After the preliminary study, Soltis was asked to serve as a NASFAA Commissioner by NASFAA’s National Chair, Dan Mann.
Soltis and the PPY Task Force members, including Associate Director of Financial Aid Lorie Staab, are looking at the program from all angles. They are proactively identifying any implementation issues while working with NASFAA staff and the US Department of Education on ensuring a successful nationwide rollout for the 2017-2018 school year.
“Right now, we’re trying hard to think of any concerns and to assist in making this transition as smooth as possible,” Soltis said. “But I believe this is a great decision, and students and their families have nothing to worry about all the best people in the financial aid community are working on making this a smooth transition.”