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The New FAFSA - Federal Aid

The 2024-25 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is shorter, easier, and should produce better financial aid for students headed to college. As of Jan. 8, the online form is now available 24/7 on FAFSA.gov.


It’s essential to submit the new FAFSA if you or your child could be in college next fall. (Or you can complete the old FAFSA and obtain financial aid for up to 18 months prior -- yep, you can file for aid after you have completed a semester or two or three of college!. FAFSA unlocks federal, state and school-based financial aid, including student loans, need-based grants, work-study and even some scholarships. Some state and institutional aid is limited, so submitting the FAFSA can expand the pool of aid you’ll have access to. But its first come so do it soon.


As a result of the FAFSA Simplification Act, signed into law in late 2020, the form now contains far fewer questions, a direct data exchange with the IRS and a new formula that could impact student’s financial aid packages.


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If you are already in college, reach out to your college’s financial aid office if you need additional help completing the 2024-25 FAFSA. If you’re a prospective college student, contact your high school college counselor or the financial aid offices of the schools to which you’re applying. Keep in mind that the new FAFSA is also uncharted territory for financial aid administrators, so you might have to wait for an answer.


Here are the 10 key takeaways about the new FAFSA to get you started.


1. All contributors need FSA IDs

On the new FAFSA, each person who submits information is called a “contributor.” This could include the student, the student's spouse, one or both biological or adoptive parents or the parent's spouse. Each contributor needs a unique FSA ID (which is their StudentAid.gov username and password) to log in and complete their portion of the form.


Request your FSA ID on studentaid.gov. Expect a three-day turnaround time after you request it. Just keep in mind that students won’t be able to submit the FAFSA until every contributor has their FSA ID.


2. Different parent may need to fill out FAFSA

The FAFSA has new rules for divorced parents of dependent students.

Starting with the 2024-25 form, the parent who provided the most financial support for the student over the last 12 months will be the FAFSA contributor. If this parent is remarried and didn’t file their taxes jointly, their spouse will also be a contributor.


In past years, the FAFSA used the financial information of the parent whom the student lived with the majority of the time, regardless of whether they provided the most financial support.


3. IRS imports tax information

All contributors must agree to allow the IRS to directly import their federal tax information to the FAFSA. The “direct data exchange” is intended to make it easier for families to fill out the form, since they won’t need to dig up their tax returns and manually enter the information.

While a student can still submit their FAFSA if any contributor doesn’t consent to this process, they won’t be eligible for federal student aid.


4. Delay impacts some state financial aid forms

Some states have their own financial aid forms, separate from the federal one. In seven states — Iowa, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Vermont — these state aid forms pull some information directly from a student’s FAFSA to streamline the process. However, due to the FAFSA changes and delay, students can’t auto-populate their financial aid forms in these states for 2024-25.


Be sure to keep track of your financial aid deadlines for your state and university (or target universities, if you’re a prospective student).


5. Student Aid Index (SAI) replaces EFC

The Student Aid Index (SAI) has replaced Expected Family Contribution (EFC) to determine a student's ability to pay for college and the amount of financial aid they can receive. The information you include on the FAFSA determines your SAI, which is an index number used by college financial aid offices to calculate need-based financial aid. Your need will be calculated by subtracting your SAI from the school's cost of attendance.



6. Pell Grant award expands

The need-based Pell Grant gives students free college aid that doesn’t need to be repaid. With the new FAFSA formula, 610,000 additional students from low-income backgrounds will be eligible for Pell Grants who wouldn’t have been under the previous form, according to the U.S. Education Department. Additionally, 1.5 million students will be newly eligible for the maximum Pell award: $7,395 per year.


Key FAFSA Facts


Maximum annual grants will be awarded based on family size, adjusted gross income (AGI) and poverty guidelines. 


Students who don’t qualify for the maximum Pell Grant could still receive funds if their SAI is less than the Pell Grant maximum. 


If a student’s SAI is greater than the maximum Pell Grant award, they could receive a minimum grant award if they qualify based on family size, AGI and poverty guidelines.



7. Application available in more languages

In recent years, the FAFSA was available in English and Spanish only. The new FAFSA is available in the 11 most common languages spoken in the U.S., making it accessible to a greater number of students and their families.


8. Fewer questions

The new FAFSA contains significantly fewer questions. Some students will only have to answer 18 questions on the new form, depending on their circumstances; the 2023-24 FAFSA included up to 103 questions.


Two controversial questions were axed. Students no longer must register for the Selective Service in order to complete the FAFSA, and the question was removed from the application. Additionally, drug-related convictions alone no longer disqualify applicants, and the question isn’t included on the FAFSA.


9. You can list more colleges

Prospective students can list up to 20 colleges on their FAFSA for 2024-25, up from 10 in previous years. The schools you list will automatically receive a copy of the information you submit in the FAFSA, which they can use to calculate your financial aid package.


10. Sibling discount removed

Parents no longer get a break for having multiple children in college at the same time.

The new FAFSA still asks a question about other people in a student’s household attending college, but it won’t be figured into federal financial aid calculations. Some colleges may consider this factor when determining institutional aid, though.

Dive deeper into FAFSA


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