George Mason University

Important Updates

Financial Aid Data Sharing Policy

January 1, 2018

The Mason Office of Student Financial Aid (OSFA) is only permitted to release basic directory information for individual students to outside organizations and other third parties. The OSFA is unable to release FAFSA or award information even with written authorization from the student.

This change in policy was based on new guidance from the U. S. Department of Education’s Privacy Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) regarding disclosing student data, and the following laws: the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA); the Higher Education Act of 1965 (HEA) Sections 483(a)(3)(E) and 485B(d)(2) as amended, which was last reauthorized by Congress in 2008; and the Privacy Act,.

Students who need financial aid information for third parties may provide requested data directly to third parties using the following methods:

  • Expected Family Contribution (EFC) can be found on the Student Aid Report (SAR), which is available by logging in to the student’s FAFSA at After logging in, the student should click the link to view the SAR.

  • Financial Aid awards and estimated cost of attendance can be printed from After logging in, click Financial Aid, Award, Award by Aid Year. Please note that awards for continuing students will be available beginning in June 2018.



The 2018-19 FAFSA will become available to complete on October 1, 2017. For priority consideration of limited funding, students should submit their FAFSA and all required verification documents by March 1, 2018.

Students should complete the 2018-19 FAFSA using tax data from 2016. The Data Retrieval Tool (DRT) will be available to transfer your 2016 tax data (both student data and parent data) from your 2016 IRS Tax return to your 2018-19 FAFSA. We encourage you to use the DRT. Using the tool will decrease the chance that your FAFSA is selected for verification.

PLEASE NOTE – Because of increased data security, when you use the DRT to transfer your data from your tax return to your FAFSA, you will NOT BE ABLE TO SEE THE DATA that was transferred. It will be “masked.” Please be assured that using the DRT will transfer the correct information to your FAFSA.

Please DO NOT update your tax data on your FAFSA after using the Data Retrieval Tool. Doing this will increase the likelihood that your FAFSA is selected for verification. If you attempt to make any changes to your FAFSA data after using the Data Retrieval Tool, you should request a copy of your 2016 tax return transcript and submit it to the Financial Aid Office, as you will likely need it for verification purposes.

The Financial Aid Office will begin loading 2018-19 FAFSA data into our system sometime in late November or early December of 2017.

Important Information for Pell Grant Recipents!

If you are receiving Pell funds and choose to drop credits between September 5, 2017 (last day to add classes/census date) and September 29, 2017 (last day to drop classes with partial refund), your Pell Grant will be reduced to reflect your new enrollment load.

For example, if you are a full-time student on September 5th but drop to half-time on or before September 29th, your Pell Grant award will be prorated to reflect your half-time enrollment status.

For spring semester, if you drop classes between census (January 29, 2018) and the scheduled Last Day to Drop Classes (February 23, 2018) your Pell grant will be pro-rated to reflect your new enrollment load.

If dropping a class does not reduce your enrollment load (for example you start at 15 credits but drop to 12 - still full-time), your Pell Grant will remain the same.

Please consult with your Financial Aid Counselor and Academic Advisor before dropping any class during this period.

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 2016 taxes to their 2018-19 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, with the exception of Pell which will be adjusted up to the last day to drop classes.

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.