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FAFSA moves to mobile devices in effort to ease student confusion

Students can now their FAFSA from mobile app (Courtesy of UMass Lowell Financial Office)

Hannah Manning
Connector Editor 

Filing for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and receiving a financial aid package from UMass Lowell just got a whole lot easier.

Federal Student Aid, an office of the U.S. Department of Education, has rolled out the MyStudentAid app, which enables both students and parents to file for a student’s FAFSA on a mobile device. The FAFSA has also moved its availability date further back to Oct. 1 to encourage students to enroll sooner.

In addition to all of that, UMass Lowell’s Financial Aid office has exciting news of its own. The university is launching a financial aid portal which will digitize the verification process for those students randomly selected to participate. Students can now upload their documents directly to a portal and sign an e-form and will know automatically whether they need to do more to get financial aid.

The move is all about convenience, said Someris Rivera and Christine Robbins. Rivera is the Senior Assistant Director of Financial Aid at UMass Lowell and Robbins works as the Senior Assistant Director of the Money Management program.

“It’s very user-friendly, so we’re hoping more people will be able to use [it],” said Rivera.

The FAFSA itself has rolled back much of its prior rules in order to better serve students. In recent years, it has requested the tax returns of two years prior, so that parents and students are not hurrying to do their taxes and submit them in time to grab them and plug them into the FAFSA.

Robbins remembers the immense struggle that students went through in order to submit their financial paperwork on time. “It was quite the scramble,” she said.

They both hope that with new rules in place it will be easier for students to finish the FAFSA step and move on to the next part of the financial aid process.

To complete financial verification, returning students must be registered for classes, meet the minimum satisfactory academic status and be enrolled at least half-time.

Rivera and Robbins recall students having trouble receiving a package because they did not meet one of the criteria to receive a package but hope the problems will be lessened as students adapt to the changes.

The big help, they say, will be the immediacy with which students will be notified of problems.

“It’s super quick so now the response time is cut so much shorter. Our staff will know right away if you’ve uploaded things. Students will know automatically if something was rejected or if you uploaded the wrong documents,” said Rivera.

Rivera remembers how “tedious” the old process was. It was seemingly rife with potential errors at every turn with papers going missing, students going to the wrong places for help and a lot of back and forth with The Solution Center.

Robbins is happy that the middleman will be cut out with the new financial aid portal.

“Hopefully, it’ll cut down on things getting lost, people thinking they gave it, but they didn’t really,” she said. “Everything’s going right up into the portal now. I think it’s a beautiful thing.”

Hannah Manning

Hannah Manning is the Editor in Chief of the UMass Lowell Connector. A native of Haverhill, Mass., she is a senior working towards her bachelor's in English with a concentration in journalism and professional writing. She likes hockey, music and her fellow staff members at the Connector.

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