Growing up in the Great Plains, I often heard the saying, "If you don't like the weather, wait for a few minutes because it will change." Well, when it comes to federal student financial aid, it seems like the weather is just as unpredictable. Just like the ever-changing midwestern climate, the world of financial aid is subject to frequent shifts and alterations driven by the decisions made by Congress.
For the 39 years I've spent working in financial aid, one thing has remained constant – change. Two decades ago, financial aid took on a highly political dimension, and since then, it's been a roller coaster ride with no end in sight.
You might be wondering why you haven't been able to complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) for the 2024-2025 academic year. Isn't the FAFSA supposed to open on October 1st? Typically, yes, but the changes for the 2024-2025 FAFSA are so substantial that even the Department of Education can't give us a clear answer on when it will be ready. Currently, they are aiming for a December release date, but that's still uncertain. We're all in the dark about when exactly this important tool will become available. These FAFSA changes are set to impact both traditional-age and adult students.
In the past, financial aid adjustments have been relatively minor, such as tweaks to how a student's income is factored into aid calculations or the maximum loan amounts for junior students. However, the changes coming for the 2024-2025 FAFSA go beyond mere adjustments. These modifications will significantly alter the core calculations of financial aid, particularly the Pell Grant program.
The Expected Family Contribution (EFC) term, which has been a cornerstone of the FAFSA, will be replaced by the Student Aid Index (SAI). The new SAI will be calculated with far less data, simplifying the process for most students. Income reporting and the need for the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT) will become less cumbersome as students and contributors will sign consent for automatic IRS data transfer. To do this, all contributors (students, spouses, and one or both parents, depending on dependency status) will need to create an FSA ID through StudentAid.gov to provide consent. Furthermore, all FAFSA submissions will be either electronic or paper-based, and there will be less emphasis on reporting untaxed income. Small business and farm assets will now need to be included in the FAFSA, adding another layer of complexity.
While the full impact of these changes is yet to be seen, a few trends have emerged from testing:
- More students are likely to qualify for a Pell Grant.
- Some students may now qualify for a full Pell Grant, though the exact amount remains undetermined.
Two categories of students might face challenges with the new calculations:
- Families with multiple students in college.
- Families that own a small business or farm.
Please stay patient as we wait for the Department of Education to navigate these changes.
Overall, these adjustments should benefit most students and their families.
If you have any questions or concerns, please don't hesitate to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Returning students can also contact their Financial Services Coordinator for additional support.
Stay tuned for more updates and information regarding the FAFSA changes, Federal Student Financial Aid, and how the Financial Aid Calculator on StudentAid.gov will be adjusted to accommodate these transformations. We're here to help you make sense of the ever-evolving world of financial aid for college.