New Year’s Day kicks off the beginning of college financial aid season for the 2014-2015 school year. It is the first day families can complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.
Every year millions of parents complete the FAFSA, which is required of any college student seeking need-based financial aid.
This year, the U.S. Department of Education issued new rules regarding which parents are required to share their financial information on the application. Here is a run down of what you need to know:
Traditional married couples
There is no change here. The new FAFSA rules won’t impact a family composed of a married husband and wife with children. Both parents must share their financial information on their son or daughter's financial aid application.
Single-sex married couples
If a single-sex couple is married, the new federal rule now requires both spouses to complete the aid application. To reflect this change, the FAFSA will now ask for information about “Parent 1” and “Parent 2.” Previously, only the biological parent had to include his/her assets and income.
A single-sex couple that has not married does not have to share both parents’ financial data unless the partner has legally adopted the student.
Unmarried parents living together
The new rules require unmarried parents who are living together to file the FAFSA jointly. Previously, only one parent had to submit the FAFSA. The CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE, which is a financial aid application used by many selective private colleges, has always required these parents to provide their financial information.
Divorced and separated parents
There is no change here. In cases of divorce, the ex-spouse who has taken care of the student for the majority of the year is considered the custodial parent and will complete the FAFSA. This same rule applies to separated couples.
If a student is living with a guardian, such as an older sibling or grandparent, he or she is considered an independent student. Only the student’s income and assets will be considered for financial aid purposes.