By this time last year, high school seniors applying to college would have already started to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (fafsa). This year's seniors face a different timeline and a different FAFSA that will affect how they apply for financial aid and what aid they receive.
Passed in 2021, the FAFSA Simplification Act will go into effect with the launch of the simplified FAFSA in December 2023 for the 2024-25 academic year; it will make the FAFSA easier to complete and impact students' eligibility at every income level. These changes affect everyone. The FAFSA not only opens the door to need-based financial aid in the form of low-interest loans, work study, and grants, it also unlocks merit-based aid in the form of scholarships for some states and colleges. With so many changes and so much at stake, make sure you are ready with our guide to what's new with the FAFSA.
Getting Started with the New FAFSA
To successfully navigate the new FAFSA, it's important to know the answers to key questions, such as when and how to access it and who should complete the form.
When? The December 2023 launch date for the redesigned FAFSA represents a departure from previous years when the FAFSA would open on October 1. So, mark your calendars! With two fewer months to complete than usual, you will want to be ready to finish the FAFSA in time for the deadlines set by your prospective colleges, by your state, and by the federal government.
Who? To determine who completes the FAFSA, you have to first figure out if you are considered independent or dependent. Independent students report their own personal and financial information or, if they're married, their information and their spouse's, while dependent students report the information of their parent(s) or guardian(s). If parents are separated or divorced, the parent who completes the application is the one who provided the most financial support the last calendar year.
How? Each applicant and his or her parent(s), guardian(s), or spouse must create a Student Aid Account or FSA ID to separately log in and complete their respective sections of the FAFSA. FSA IDs are required to enable the IRS to transfer federal tax information directly into the FAFSA with the new Direct Data Exchange (DDX), which shortens and simplifies the application process. Since it can take a few days for FSA IDs to be verified, you can and should create them prior to the December 2023 FAFSA launch date in order to finish the application as soon as possible.
What's In, What's Out, and What's New in General
Before getting into the specific changes affecting aid eligibility, it's worth getting an overview of some key features and terms of the redesigned FAFSA.
- Fewer Questions and Requirements: The FAFSA will be about two-thirds shorter due to fewer questions, including the elimination of questions related to drug related convictions and Selective Service (students are no longer required to register). Although there will be fewer questions, some new ones have been added. For example, students will now be asked their race/ethnicity and their gender—neither will affect eligibility.
- More Colleges and Languages: Students can list 20 colleges (up from 10) on the redesigned FAFSA, and the form itself will be available in 11 languages (up from 2).
- New Key Terms: The FAFSA Submission Summary (FSS) provides basic information about your aid eligibility and will replace the Student Aid Report (SAR), and the Student Aid Index (SAI) will replace the EFC (Expected Family Contribution). Meanwhile, “housing and food” will replace “room and board.”
Changes to Aid Eligibility
How siblings attending college simultaneously, income, cost of attendance and more are factored into what determines your eligibility for financial aid requires an even closer look at the redesigned FAFSA.
Simultaneous Sibling Students. In the past, the EFC (now SAI) was divided by the number of children attending college, which meant that instead of being expected to pay, say, $10,000 per student, you were only expected to pay $5,000. Soon, there won't be a multiple student adjustment, and you will be expected to pay the full $10,000 per student.
Income Protection and Reporting. Typically the lower the income, the more aid a student was eligible to receive. The FAFSA has a way to help students qualify for more aid called the Income Protection Allowance (IPA), or the amount of income that doesn't have to count toward determining potential aid. Now, to address the new lack of discount for multiple children and expand potential aid, the IPA will longer be reduced based on more than one child attending college. In addition, the IPA will increase by thousands of dollars, reducing the SAI by thousands as well. What income is required to be reported is also changing in ways that can expand eligibility. Some untaxed income, workman's compensation, and veteran's education benefits no longer need to be reported, for example.
Assets and Net Worth. The simplified FAFSA will make it clearer whether you need to report assets by exempting those with an adjusted gross income (AGI) of $60,000 or less, those not required to file federal taxes, and those with an SAI between -$1,500 and $0. It will also now include in its calculation the net worth of family farms or small businesses with fewer than 100 employees.
Cost of Attendance. Financial aid eligibility is determined based on subtracting how much you can afford to pay for college based on your income (SAI) from how much it costs to attend college. Just like income, cost of attendance will undergo changes in how it's calculated. Among the changes, food allowance will now be based on three meals a day, transportation costs will include travel to work in addition to home and school, and the purchase of a computer will now be counted.
Pell Grants. Financial aid can be loans or grants. While loans have to be repaid, grants do not. Pell Grants are awarded to students who demonstrate exceptional financial need and do not require repayment. The redesigned FAFSA will help expand Pell Grant eligibility, because it will now be based more on family size, AGI, and poverty guidelines. Incarcerated students will also now be eligible, and students whose parents died in the line of duty as a member of the armed forces or public safety can receive the maximum Pell Grant.
How A+ Can Help
Applying to college is stressful, and so is paying for it. Fortunately, the FAFSA is easier than ever to complete and, by reading this article, you are informed and ready to complete the application. For even more help and better chances, A+ Test Prep and Tutoring offers a variety of tutoring programs. Our college admissions coaching will help students handle application components and deadlines, and our academic and test prep tutoring will improve grades and scores, boosting a student's chances of earning merit-based aid to supplement need-based aid.
At A+ Test Prep and Tutoring, our practices are based on the latest developments in educational theory and research. We have an excellent team of tutors who can help you with standardized testing, executive functioning, or achievement in any other school subject. If you want to find out more about our services, we can be reached at 215-886-9188 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.