Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Gaole Chen, Ph.D.

Co-Major Professor

Jung C. Park, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Troy A. Montgomery, D.B.A.

Committee Member

Carol Stoak Saunders, Ph.D.


FAFSA Simplification, Pell Grant, Prior-Prior Year, Student Financial Aid


Each year, millions of Americans complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) in hopes of securing federal, state, and institutional funding to support their educational goals. The FAFSA recently changed the age of tax data used to determine eligibility for aid, including the Federal Pell Grant—eligibility for which is often used as a proxy for students with the highest need. This study includes a comprehensive review of the extant literature on the subject of prior-prior year. It is also the first look into the actual impact of the recent shift from Prior Year (PY) tax information to Prior-Prior Year (PPY) tax information used in the FAFSA process. The study includes recalculations of eligibility completed with a sample of over 460,000 applicants from widely diversion institutions supplied by CampusLogic (a vendor that works with public, private not-for-profit, and private for-profit institutions). The study capitalizes on previous research that found slightly older tax data had little impact on Pell eligibility. However, where there was a shift, previous studies found independent students without children had the most volatility in their awards and decreased in amount. This study confirms for 2 of 3 dependency statuses sampled, there was little impact caused by switching from PY to PPY tax information. In contrast to previous research, this study finds Pell grants increased almost $300 per student for independent students without dependents than for students with dependency statuses of dependent or independent with dependents who had increases closer to $100. Finally, the study examines if the earlier application timeline is taken advantage of by Pell-eligible students, particularly focusing on first-time, first-generation college students, and finds these students have a higher rate of application in the first quarter than in previous years.