Starting with the 2017-18 school year, students will be able to use prior year income data on their Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The changes were not meant to push institutions to move notifications earlier but rather to make it easier for families to file. The Department of Education has produced a lot of free materials to help institutions (fsapubs.gov) with this transition, and institutions can order as many copies as they need.
At the AACRAO Annual Meeting in March, David B. Johnston, Vice Provost Enrollment Management at Indiana University Bloomington, introduced some of the changes his institution made in anticipation of this change. Among them, College Goal Sunday will move from February back to October, FAFSA sessions are being added to summer orientation, and the institution is considering moving financial aid notifications to February.
Participants expressed concern about the changes in the timeline relative to the fact that many of the intuitions will not have their state budget information or definitive funding information from the Federal government by January or February. As such, any financial aid notification would be based on funding estimates.
Ashley Harris from the Department of Education alluded to many pending changes aimed at addressing the concerns expressed. In addition, software vendors are part of the conversation with the Department of Education in anticipation of these changes.
The College Board, NACAC, and AACRAO are releasing a series of webinars beginning April 7 to address these changes and provide practice recommendations. For information, visit AACRAO's Advocacy page and click "Webinars" in the sidebar.
The Department of Education is also going to release a series of webinars in the near future, which will be followed by the related organizational webinars.
Download handouts from the presentation here.