This year the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is getting a face-lift, featuring a later opening date, new methodology for calculating financial aid, changes to the Pell Grant and more.
The “new” 2024-2025 FAFSA begins with a later opening date for the form. As some students may have noticed by now, the Oct. 1 opening date for the FAFSA has been pushed back to December this year. This change intends to align opening the FAFSA with a time that many students will be home for the holidays, allowing families to work on the form together.
While this later opening date could increase wait time for those hoping to get it done as it comes out, the turnaround for these forms should not be longer than usual, and with the other coming changes, it might even be a bit quicker.
This year the Expected Family Contribution (EFC) will be substituted for the Student Aid Index (SAI). The EFC and the SAI are similar in the major ways they work. Both consider what families can pay toward education costs and household income and assets; however, they differ in some ways.
First, the SAI decreases the number of questions to determine students’ financial need, with the EFC having one hundred questions and the SAI only containing about fifty. Because data will be pulled from the IRS, the fewer questions shouldn’t effect on the level of aid one has be receiving too much. Consent is required for all contributors to the application to share their tax data, meaning that contributors will need to provide consent to share their tax data from the IRS to the Department of Education to fill in information.
Having more than one child per family in higher education, won’t be a consideration. With this introduction, families with multiple children in college may see a decrease in the amount of aid they receive for the 2024-2025 school year.
Students will now be required to report the income of the parent that provides the most support. This change requires a bit more speculation, as there is no guarantee that it will negatively or positively affect aid to students it affects until the forms start coming back.
Lastly, some income is no longer considered in aid calculations, such as gifts from family members or other untaxed income. The goal of this change is streamlining. It is possible that this change may increase access to need-based grants.
The Pell Grant is also changing for the upcoming FAFSA form. This year there will be a greater availability of Pell Grants for students. This increased access shouldn’t decrease the amount one may get from the grant, as Pell Grant amounts are set by Congress and a decrease in aid hasn’t been reported.
Some smaller changes to the FAFSA include identification and applicable schools. This year the FAFSA will require all preparers to have Federal Student Aid (FSA) IDs, though this is not necessarily a new thing, as FSA IDs have been needed to electronically sign the form for a while now. Also, students will now be able to include up to twenty schools on their application form.
David Sarah, director of financial aid at AU, said, “The goal of FAFSA simplification is to streamline or simplify the application process and expand access to grants.” Sarah suggests students and contributors are prepared with an email address and an FSA ID, which takes about three days to validate.
Students can use the Federal Student Aid Estimator to get an early idea of what their SAI could be and what type of federal aid they may qualify for. With questions, students can visit the Financial Aid and Scholarships page of AU’s website or refer questions to the Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships at this email or in Decker Hall 288 Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.