With the constantly changing release dates to a website that crashed on the first day, the new FAFSA is rolling out with a lot of confusion. While it was supposed to be available December 1st — two months later than previous years—, it didn’t open until December 31st. This delay has caused challenges for students who depend on federal grants because they could not commit to a college during peak enrollment season (November), which caused them to miss out on early enrollment scholarships and discounts. When the FAFSA was released, there was so much demand to fill it out that the entire website went down. Now that the FAFSA has become available, many people are asking what changes were made to this “simplified” form, and how these changes will affect FAFSA users.
You Need A Studentaid.gov Account To Access The FAFSA: Before filling out the FAFSA, students and their contributors are required to create an account with studentaid.gov. To create an account, you will need your social security number and your own email address.
No More Sibling Discount: In the past, parental income was measured in terms of Expected Family Contribution (EFC). However, this year it has shifted to the Student Aid Index (SAI) which does not account for families with multiple children attending college at the same time. What this means is that in previous years, if a parent was expected to contribute $30,000 to their children’s education, and they had two children in college, they would be expected to pay $15,000 per child. However, With the new FAFSA, that same family would be expected to pay $30,000 per child. This new policy cuts the amount of aid any child with siblings in college receives by the number of siblings. In the previous example, that child will get half the aid this year as they would in previous years.
Switch To Contributors: A contributor is a new term introduced to the FAFSA which includes anyone (you, your spouse, your biological or adoptive parent, or your parent’s spouse) who provides their information to the FAFSA. However, this still doesn’t account for grandparents, aunts, uncles, foster parents, legal guardians, or siblings who haven’t adopted you.
Fewer Questions and More Language Options: In previous years, the FAFSA included 108 questions in either English or Spanish. However, this year the FAFSA only has 36 questions and is available in the 11 most commonly spoken languages in the US. This change is made possible by new consent requirements, which ask contributors to allow the IRS to send their tax information directly to FAFSA. This applies to all contributors even if they don’t have a Social Security number (SSN), didn’t file a tax return, or filed a tax return outside the U.S.
Additional Federal Pell Grants: Under the new FAFSA, the maximum grant will be given to any student whose family income is below 225% of the federal poverty threshold, or 175% for single parents. However, students who do not meet this threshold are still eligible for smaller Pell Grants. This new policy will expand the maximum grant to an additional 1.5 million students, and an additional 610,000 will receive lower Pell Grants. However, middle-income families are estimated to receive less money this year than in previous years. A federal aid calculator published by Brookings found that families with an income of $70,000 will receive $2,000 less this year from federal Pell Grants compared to last year.
Introducing The FAFSA Submission Summary: Instead of a Student Aid Report, after you fill out the FAFSA, you will receive an email with instructions on how to access your FAFSA Submission Summary. This summary highlights your ability for aid but is not an aid offer. Aid will come directly from the schools you have listed on your FAFSA form and have been accepted to.
All of these new changes can be a lot for parents and students to keep up with. Luckily, BHS is prepared for this. On January 29th, BHS will be hosting a FAFSA night, where students and their contributors can come up to the high school to get help to fill out this form. FAFSA representatives will be in attendance as well to answer any additional questions or concerns you may have. Before the 29th, students and contributors must set up their student aid account and receive their FSA ID because this can take up to five days to verify.