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Earlier Application Date Opens For College Financial Aid

Students walk in the quad
Cindy Le
ISU students walk through Schroeder Plaza near the Quad in August 2017.

Have you filed your FAFSA already? That's the question high school seniors and college students should be asking each other these days.

FAFSA is an acronym that means Free Application for Federal Student Aid, such as Pell grants. But that one form can give qualified students access to other financial aid, including Illinois' Monetary Award Program, or MAP grants.

The window to apply opened Oct. 1, but the state aid portion will close whenever Illinois has received the number of applications the state can fund. That could be any time, says Carolyn Schloemann, director of financial aid at University of Illinois Springfield.

"The earlier the students complete their FAFSA application, the more likely they will be to be considered for the State of Illinois MAP grant for next academic year."

In the past, families had to include the prior year's income tax return, so the application window opened Jan. 1. The federal government decided to accept "prior prior" year tax returns, so the application period was moved up to start Oct. 1.

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