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The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), managed by the Department of Education, is the gateway to federal and state financial aid for millions of college students in America.

Due to the passing of the FAFSA Simplification Act in 2020, the FAFSA is seeing big changes for the 2024-2025 academic year (and, unfortunately, some delays).

But don’t fret! For many students and families, these changes are to your benefit.

Counselors and college admissions folks—keep reading for more info on how to navigate this change and support students through the process.

Or, jump right to the section that is most relevant to you.

 

The New FAFSA Delay

Before we jump into the nitty-gritty, know that the new FAFSA is experiencing delays. If you already submitted your FAFSA application for the 2024-2025 academic year, you won't be able to make any edits to your applications until the first half of April 2024 at the earliest.

This, among other delays at the end of 2023, has forced many students and guardians to wait much longer than usual to see their financial aid reward breakdown. This article from CNN has some of the latest information on the FAFSA delays, if you're curious to learn more.

 

New FAFSA Changes Everyone Should Know for the 2024-2025 Academic Year

There are 4 main FAFSA updates to keep in mind.

 

1. Fewer questions for students and families to answer

The new FAFSA has significantly fewer questions for many families, due to a more streamlined data-sharing process between the IRS and the FAFSA.

The simpler FAFSA application will allow more students and families to complete the form independently, without the help of a financial aid office or high school counselor.

 

2. The switch from Expected Family Contribution (EFC) to the Student Aid Index (SAI)

Previously the EFC, the SAI is the new FAFSA’s way of calculating the amount of aid for which a student or family qualifies.

The main changes to the calculation are:

  • A new minimum calculation (-1,500 instead of 0)
  • Elimination of data points, like the number of family members in college, from the calculation
  • Different eligibility criteria for Federal Pell Grants (including an increase in eligibility for lower-income households, and fewer questions for low-income households to answer)
  • A negative change in award opportunities is expected for students with siblings who are in college
  • Small businesses and farms with under 100 employees are now considered financial assets that could be used to pay for college, likely reducing the amount of aid these families will receive under the new FAFSA

The bottom line: middle and upper-income families will likely receive less aid under the new FAFSA, and lower-income families will earn more.

 

3. Availability in December instead of October 1

The new FAFSA had a release delay (and some initial bugs). To roll all these changes out, the FAFSA release date was pushed back 3 months to December 30, 2023, reducing the time students and families have to complete the FAFSA for the 2024-2025 academic year.

Families have until June 30, 2024 to submit the new FAFSA for the 2024-2025 school year.

If you're curious about what support you will receive under the new FAFSA, check out the aid calculator from Federal Student Aid.

 

4. The introduction of "contributors"

On the new FAFSA, contributors are those who submit information on the form. Here are the details on the contributors concept from Federal Student Aid website:

"'Contributor' is a new term on the 2024–25 FAFSA form. It refers to anyone (you, your spouse, your biological or adoptive parent, or your parent’s spouse) who’s asked to provide their information, consent and approval to have their federal tax information transferred automatically from the IRS into the FAFSA form (more on that later), and signature on your FAFSA form."

Every FAFSA contributor needs an FSA ID, AKA your username and password to log into the Federal Student Aid website. Students and parents/guardians must fill out the new FAFSA separately in their separate log-ins.

Plus, divorced parents must follow a new rule. The parent who financially supported the student the most in the past 12 months is considered the contributor. 

 

Also, the new FASFA is now available in 11 languages!

 

What Students and Families Need to Know About the FAFSA Changes

The main FAFSA update to keep in mind is the introduction of the Student Aid Index (SAI), and the projected aid changes for certain groups. 

You can expect to receive less aid under the new FAFSA if you:

  • Have a sibling in college
  • Own a family farm or small business with less than 100 employees

While the exact impact on aid is unknown, low-income families can expect to receive more aid.

If you’re looking to learn more about your financial aid options, these articles can help.

If you're an early action or early decision applicant this fall, you may be affected by the FAFSA delay. Contact the institution you are applying to and/or your counselor for next steps. You may need to fill out the CSS Profile or another financial aid form. 

What High School Counselors Need to Know About the FAFSA Changes

Here is an email template you can use to announce the FAFSA to parents/guardians and students:

Hi there,

This is an exciting time for our seniors and juniors. For those who are looking to attend college, the college prep process has already begun.

One key college prep to-do to keep in mind is filling out the FAFSA.

You can learn more about the FAFSA updates and what they may mean for you and your family in this article by Scoir about the FAFSA. The Federal Student Aid website is another great resource to explore.

Please let me know if you have any questions or if I can assist you and your family in any way through the new FAFSA application process.

If it makes sense for you, try blocking your calendar now to set aside time to support students and families with the new FAFSA.

You can also plan a meeting or record a virtual presentation explaining the FAFSA updates to students and families in the fall.

 

What College Admissions Needs to Know About the FAFSA Changes

Colleges have been operating on an October 1 FAFSA release date for years. The new FAFSA's delay and hiccups threw a monkey wrench into the financial aid process for many institutions.

The following steps can help you prepare to communicate with students and families about the new FAFSA and its delays:

  1. Regroup with your team to determine how the FAFSA changes and its delays will impact your institution’s student aid strategy; the NASFAA has a tool to support your team with this process
  2. Plan a training session with your team to explain the FAFSA updates and delays and why they are important for students and the institution (be sure to look to your IT department and CRM experts to ensure they understand the implications on your institution’s systems)
  3. Create and build a communication campaign for impacted students and families that are connected to your institution

 

New FAFSA FAQs

Low on time? Read answers to these commonly asked FAFSA questions so you can quickly take the required next steps.

 

When will the new FAFSA be available?

The new FAFSA was released on December 30, 2023. If you already submitted your FAFSA application for the 2024-2025 academic year, you won't be able to make any edits to your applications until the first half of April 2024 at the earliest. You can monitor the state of the new FAFSA on the Federal Student Aid website.

 

What is the new FAFSA application deadline?

Students and families will have until June 30, 2024 to complete the new FAFSA application. However, each state and school has different deadline requirements, so you will want to double-check deadline requirements with those parties.

It is a good best practice to complete the FAFSA as soon as possible to increase your chances of receiving aid.

Typically, the deadline for schools is in the spring, prior to the June 30 deadline FAFSA requires.

To learn more about the FAFSA deadlines, check out this article by Edvisors.

 

What is the SAI?

SAI stands for “Student Aid Index.” The SAI has replaced the EFC, or “Expected Family Contribution” calculation. The SAI determines how much aid a student or family needs. 

Unlike the EFC, the SAI can be a negative number (as low as -1,500), signifying that a student is eligible for more aid.

This is good news for many lower-income students and families; the SAI will help those in need qualify for more aid.

To learn more about your other financial aid options, our blog post on the college financial aid process can help.

 

What are the main changes in the new FAFSA for the 2024-2025 academic year?

The new FAFSA features fewer questions, switches from Expected Family Contribution (EFC) to the Student Aid Index (SAI), had a release date in December instead of October, and introduces the concept of "contributors."

 

How will the switch from EFC to SAI impact students and families?

The SAI calculation differs from EFC by introducing a minimum calculation, eliminating certain data points, and altering eligibility criteria for Federal Pell Grants, potentially resulting in reduced aid for middle and upper-income families and increased aid for lower-income families.

 

What's the submission deadline for the new FAFSA?

Families have until June 30, 2024 to submit the FAFSA for the 2024-2025 school year.

 

Who are considered "contributors" on the new FAFSA, and what are their responsibilities?

Contributors are individuals (such as students, parents, or guardians) who provide their information, consent, and approval for the transfer of federal tax information from the IRS into the FAFSA form. Each contributor must have an FSA ID and fill out the FAFSA separately.

 

How will the new FAFSA impact aid for students with siblings in college or families owning small businesses or farms?

Students with siblings in college and families owning small businesses or farms with less than 100 employees may receive less aid under the new FAFSA.

 

This article was originally published on July 18, 2023. It was updated on April 1, 2024 for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

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