May 5, 2016

What counselors are thinking about ‘Prior Prior Year’ (PPY)

Cornell College

Cornell College recently asked college counselors, both school-based and independent, how they were preparing for the changes the Department of Education is making in the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

In a nutshell, FAFAS is backing up the timeline for filing federal aid applications by three months to support a new policy enabling students to use “prior-prior” year (PPY) tax data to qualify for aid. In other words, a high school senior planning to enroll in college in fall 2017 will file FAFSA using tax information from 2015—the prior prior year.

PPY is scheduled to debut in October, for applications for the 2017-18 award year.  This means that the high school class of 2017 will be the first group to use the PPY FAFSA. It also means that colleges, along with the Department of Education and the Internal Revenue Service, are scrambling to figure out what impact this change will have on basic application mechanics as well as on the overall admission cycle.

To get a handle on what counselors working with next year’s seniors are thinking about these changes, Cornell College published a poll on their website and invited counselors working with high school students and their families to respond.

Of 60 respondents, 67 percent said they were either not ready or did not know if they were ready for PPY. About half of the school counselors expect earlier requests for letters of recommendation and earlier requests for transcripts. Less than 10 percent of counselors anticipate college fair dates moving.

One-third of independent educational consultants plan to advise clients to apply earlier, and one-third plan to advise students to move college visits earlier. Half of the consultants didn’t see PPY as changing the college decision-making process.

While many of those responding to the Cornell College poll either didn’t know how PPY would affect their workloads or didn’t think it would, there were some individual responses worth noting:
  • We have already scheduled a financial aid night for the class of 2017 for this May.
  • The biggest difference will be educating parents to engage in the Financial Aid process earlier.
  • We are preparing a letter to go out to the members of the Class of 2017 and their parents before the end of this school year.  So, to that end, we’ve already had a shift to our workload this spring while we prepare this communication.
  • With this, the pressure students will face to complete their college admissions process AND apply for aid in the early months of fall of senior year will be tremendous.
  • We will have to balance the opening of school and settling schedules with financial aid night and FAFSA presentations. This is going to be a BIG challenge.
  • We will couple our Senior Parent meeting in the fall with our Financial Aid Night, which will make that meeting longer, but will keep us from having programs on two different nights.
  • I think the date shift and the PPY is a good thing, but this fall will be a bugger to get through.
In response to requests for additional information, Cornell College put together a one-page PPY worksheet to share with students and families. This simple handout can be supplemented by other more detailed materials available from the U.S Department of Education or the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC).

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