Federal Student Aid (FSA), an office of the U.S. Department of Education, is changing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) for the 2024-25 academic year. The FAFSA determines families’ eligibility for federal grants, work-study, low-interest student loans, and some scholarships.

The good news is that the FAFSA itself will be simplified. The application will be pared down from 108 questions to just 36, including detailed financial information, and make it easier to import income data from tax records. Other changes are taking place, a number of which will impact everyone who fills out the FAFSA, including current and future college students. The Department of Education is changing its formula to determine which students will qualify for aid and how much they will receive.

Below are some other important things to know.

The FAFSA will open in December 2023.

In past years, the FAFSA opened annually on October 1. In 2023, FSA anticipates the application opening sometime in December. In subsequent years, the FSA anticipates the opening of the FAFSA to return to October 1.

Terms to know

Filing the FAFSA will generate a federal Student Aid Index (SAI), which will replace the term EFC (Expected Family Contribution). The determination of need at a given college will be the COA (Cost of Attendance) minus the SAI.

To determine their eligibility for federal aid, a family must complete the FAFSA. To determine their eligibility for institutional aid (i.e., aid offered by the college itself), a family must file the CSS Profile. Many schools that use the FAFSA to determine eligibility for aid (grants, loans, and/or work study) from the government also use the CSS Profile, through which they can determine a student’s eligibility for grants and/or scholarships from the college. The FAFSA is required from everyone who is seeking financial aid; the CSS Profile is required (in addition to the FAFSA) only by certain colleges. See which colleges require the CSS Profile in addition the FAFSA here.

Both students and parents must create a Student Aid Account to get an FSA ID before completing the form.

If the student’s parents are married to each other and file their taxes “married filing jointly,” then only one parent needs an FSA ID. If parents file their taxes “married filing separately,” they will both need an FSA ID.

The Social Security Administration will now require verification of FSA IDs before tax information can be accessed, so applicants will need to allow at least three days for this process to be completed. Be sure to start your application as soon as it becomes available! Students and parents must log in to the FAFSA separately to complete each of their respective sections.

If parents are divorced or separated, the parent who provided the most financial support in the last calendar year must complete the FAFSA.

In previous years, the parent with whom a student lived with the most in the last calendar year needed to complete the FAFSA. Starting with the 2024-2025 FAFSA, the parent who provided the most financial support must complete the application. Which parent claimed the student as a dependent on their tax return has no bearing on who files the FAFSA.

The number of students a family has enrolled in college will no longer factor into the FAFSA calculation.

FSA will no longer divide the Expected Family Contribution (EFC), which will soon be called the Student Aid Index (SAI), by the number of students a family has in college. This means that under the new FAFSA, families with more than one student in college will in many cases be eligible for less financial aid. That said, we expect the CSS Profile will continue to consider the number of students a family has in college.

The net worth of family farms and small businesses will now be required as part of the application.

In past years, the net worth of a family farm or a small business with fewer than 100 employees was not required. Starting with the 2024-2025 FAFSA, the net worth of each will be part of the FAFSA calculation.

IMPORTANT NOTE: We highly recommend that all families fill out the FAFSA. There is no downside to submitting the new FAFSA form.

Final thoughts

Students in the lowest income levels will not be affected by the FAFSA changes because these students will be eligible for the maximum Pell Grant both before and after the change. For middle- and high-income families, the changes likely mean decreases in aid eligibility as FAFSA shifts focus from cash flow to wealth.

Before applying to a list of particular colleges, we highly encourage you to check the Net Price Calculator at every school on the list. Simply Google the name of the college and “Net Price Calculator.” That is just a starting point. Also, be sure to search “Cost of Attendance” at every college and discuss candidly the colleges’ affordability with your student.

Notes

This blog is only a summary of the planned changes. The items discussed here could change before the new FAFSA is available to students in December. For current updates, subscribe to Department of Education, Student Financial Aid emails:  Announcements | Federal Student Aid – Financial Aid Toolkit

For parents who want to read more in depth about the FAFSA changes and the thinking behind the changes, please see this report from the Brookings Institute.

For help with the FAFSA or any other part of the college admissions process, visit http://www.internationalcollegecounselors.com or call us at 954-414-9986 to discuss your unique student.

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