Columbia Financial Aid and Educational Financing

Financial Aid FAQs: New for 2017-2018

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We want to make you aware of several upcoming changes to the financial aid application process and some actions you can take now to make the process smoother and easier for next year. We will continue to provide information as the May 5th Re-Application deadline approaches, but we wanted to share how these changes might impact your family so that you are informed and prepared.

1. What changes have been put into effect for the 2017-2018 financial aid process?

  • On September 13, 2015, President Obama signed an executive order that will allow families to complete the 2017-18 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) using income information from the 2015 federal tax return, the same income information that you and your parent(s) reported when filing the 2016-17 FAFSA. As result, the 2017-18 FAFSA may be filed as early as October 1, 2016. This new feature will allow students and parents to report final, accurate income information on the FAFSA as the vast majority of families will have already completed their 2015 taxes by October 2016.

2. Which tax year will impact my financial aid eligibility each year?

  • The Department of Education announced last Fall that beginning with the 2017-2018 academic year, the FAFSA would be available as early as October 1 and that an earlier year of tax information would be requested in order to make the process more convenient for families.

Enrollment Year

Application Deadline

Forms to fill out

Federal Taxes to Submit


Present Year


2016-2017 FAFSA & CSS Profile



Implementation of Early FAFSA and New Financial Aid Process


2017-2018 FAFSA & CSS Profile




2018-2019 FAFSA & CSS Profile




2019-2020 FAFSA & CSS Profile




2020-2021 FAFSA & CSS Profile


3. You already have my 2015 taxes on file; do I need to resubmit?

  • Yes, we will require you to re-submit your 2015 tax documents via IDOC when you submit the 2017-2018 FAFSA and CSS Profile by May 5th, 2017. For auditing purposes, we are required to keep a separate financial aid file for each academic year.

    We strongly encourage families to utilize the Data Retrieval Tool to transfer 2015 IRS tax return information directly to the 2017-2018 FAFSA.

4. Will my Net Cost be the same for 2017-2018 as it is for 2016-2017?

  • It will probably not be exactly the same, but if your financial circumstances have not changed significantly, then your Net Cost may be similar. The amounts for Student Contribution and Student Employment do increase slightly each year. Also, while your Parent Contribution will be based in part on the same 2015 tax documents for 2017-2018, there are changes in our mathematical formulas and in how we finalize our calculations each year. We annually adjust our evaluation of your need-based eligibility, based on a detailed analysis of national data, as well as changes in your family’s financial circumstances (income, assets and allowable expenses).

5. When should I file the 2017-2018 FAFSA and CSS Profile?

  • Applying before May 5th will not change the amount of need-based financial aid that you are eligible for. Although online forms will be available sooner, we have opted to keep the Renewal Deadline for current Columbia students the same as in prior years for your convenience: May 5th. Aside from the change in the tax year used, our method for determining your eligibility will remain unchanged. More information on this process can be found on our webpage titled Determining Eligibility.

    The May 5th deadline allows you and your family to report the most current financial circumstances at that time; if you submit your documents earlier in the year and then changes (job loss, increased expenses, etc.) occur later on, you may submit revised application materials to update your file.

6. When will I receive my 2017-2018 financial aid eligibility letter?

  • The 2017-2018 financial aid eligibility letters are typically finalized and sent to students/families in early July after the Columbia Board of Trustees approves the tuition amounts for the next academic year.

7. What should I do if I experience a change in income that is not reflected on the 2015 taxes?

  • Your initial 2017-2018 eligibility letter will be based on your family’s 2015 tax information; if you have experienced or expect a significant financial change, please provide further details (timeline, amounts) in the “Explanations/Special Circumstances” section of the CSS Profile/Noncustodial Profile form.
  • You can submit a request to have your financial aid eligibility adjusted for one of the following reasons:
    • Your family’s financial circumstances have changed since you originally submitted the financial aid application.
    • Your family’s financial circumstances are complex in nature, and you would like us to reconsider the file with new information or clarification not previously submitted.
    • Since each family’s special circumstances are different, and can be sensitive in nature, we recommend that you contact our office and speak with a financial aid officer prior to submitting a request. Requests for reconsideration may also be submitted via e-mail to