George Mason University

Important Updates

Here are some important information from the Financial Aid office for the 2016-2017 academic year:

IRS Data Retrieval Tool Unavailable

The Department of Education and the Internal Revenue Service report that the Data Retrieval Tool to aid applicants in linking tax return information to the FAFSA is unavailable, and could be for several weeks.  Until we get further guidance, aid applicants whose FAFSAs are selected for verification will need to provide a copy of their tax return transcript, which is available through the IRS website. To obtain a 2015 IRS tax return transcript, under "Tools," click on the “Get a Tax Transcript” link; or call 1-800-908-9946. A tax return transcript could take several weeks to arrive, so aid applicants might want to request one as soon as possible.

Prior Prior Year

Starting with the 2017-18 FAFSA, families will now use tax data from two years ago. On this 2017-18 FAFSA families will once again use 2015 tax data. This is referred to as “Prior-Prior” year data because it uses tax data from two years before the academic year. For 2018-19, families will use 2016 tax data. For 2019-20, they will use 2017 tax data, etc.

Along with this change, the Department of Education is changing when the FAFSA is available for families to complete. Previously, this was not available until January 1st. Beginning with the 2017-18 year, the FAFSA will become available for families to complete on October 1st. Therefore, families can begin applying for aid (using accurate completed tax data) about one year prior to the academic year in question.

All families are STRONGLY ENCOURAGED to use the Data Retrieval Tool (DRT) to link their 2015 taxes to their 2017-18 FAFSA. Using this will decrease the likelihood of the FAFSA being selected for verification and if the FAFSA is flagged for verification, will make that process easier.

Enrollment and COA adjustments

Until Census, your aid and Cost of Attendance is adjusted based on the number of credits you are taking. IF you add credits you will see your budget go up. If you drop them, you will see your budget go down. Once the census date has passed, your enrollment level is locked and no changes are made either up or down.

Disbursement of Aid

If you are attending less than full-time, we will disburse your aid 10 days before the beginning of the term, just as we have done in the past with full time students. Your federal and state grants, as well as institutional grants, will be pro-rated depending on your enrollment status (3/4 time, 1/2 time). Scholarships will ONLY disburse if you are FULL TIME. Direct Loan funds will only disburse if you are taking 6 or more credits (4.5 credits if you are a graduate student). Loans will not be pro-rated, they will disburse at their full amount.


You may be eligible for a refund after your aid is paid to your account and your charges are covered for the term. HOWEVER, if additional charges are added to your account after a refund has been processed for you (if you add credits or meal plans after your refund is processed), you will incur additional charges which you need to pay from your refund. Late fees will apply if charges are not paid in full.