The federal government moved up the date that students can submit the Free Application For Federal Student Aid.
The old FAFSA application period opened on January 1, and you couldn't complete the form until you filed your taxes. But as of last year, the federal government decided to accept "prior prior" tax returns, which meant families could file as early as Oct. 1. Carolyn Schloemann, financial aid director at the University of Illinois Springfield, said some people take that start date very seriously.
"High school guidance counselors, I was told last week, some of them set up some FAFSA completion workshops at midnight," she said. "How many of those happened across the state I can't tell you, but I know that there are a few schools, especially up in the Chicagoland area, that did that."
The FAFSA determines eligibility for all financial aid, including federal Pell grants and Illinois’s MAP grants for lower-income students. When Illinois receives enough applications to exhaust MAP grant funding, the state funding window will close. Schloemann said the state typically provides no more than 24-hours advance notice.