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What You Need to Know About the New FAFSA

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 about to see some big changes for the 2024-2025 academic year.

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


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

There are three 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 on their own, 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 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)
  • A negative change in award opportunities is expected for students with siblings that 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 will have a release delay. In order to roll all these changes out, the FAFSA release date has been pushed back two months, reducing the amount of time students and families have to complete the FAFSA for the 2024-2025 academic year.


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.

What High School Counselors Need to Know About the FAFSA Changes

The summer can be a great time to prepare your new FAFSA communications for students and families. Here is an email template you can use to announce the FAFSA changes to parents and students:

Hi there,

Welcome back! I hope your summer was a restful one.

It is an exciting time for our seniors and juniors. For those that 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. The FAFSA has had some recent changes, including a late release date of December 2023 instead of October.

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.

As we head into the winter, 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 likely throws a monkey wrench into the financial aid process for many institutions.

The following steps to help you prepare. The sooner you start, the better.

  1. Regroup with your team to determine how the FAFSA changes 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 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



When will the new FAFSA be available?

As of the publishing of this article, the new FAFSA is set to release in December 2023. 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, 2025 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 is used to determine 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.


Learn the next steps in your college journey - Scoir College Planning Guide

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