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FAFSA Changes 2024: A Student and Parent's Guide

a mother and daughter discuss the 2023 FAFSA while looking at a laptop computer

Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is an essential step in finding financial aid for college. However, in the past, many students and families felt the form was long and sometimes confusing. When you complete the FAFSA this year, you'll get to do it with the new and improved Better FAFSA.

If you are struggling with the FAFSA delays now, check out this article that covers what you can do to better manage the stress of the delayed FAFSA.

What is the FAFSA?

The FAFSA is the form you fill out to apply for federal financial aid for college. States and colleges also use the data from your FAFSA to determine eligibility for the financial aid they award. In short, filling out the FAFSA is the first step in accessing financial aid. 

What Makes the New FAFSA Better?

The U.S. Congress passed the FAFSA Simplification Act to make financial aid more accessible for students. From that legislation comes the changes you'll soon see with the Better FAFSA.

One way the Better FAFSA will do this is by making the process of filling out the form quicker and easier. There will be fewer questions to answer, and tax information will be pulled directly from tax returns. With this simplified process, the government hopes more students will complete the form and, in turn, be able to go to college without taking on debt.

The Better FAFSA also expands access to financial aid by removing some of the previous eligibility or income barriers some students faced. This includes expanding eligibility for the Federal Pell Grant and opening eligibility back up to incarcerated students and students who attended schools that closed while the student was enrolled. 

The changes we'll see with the new and better FAFSA will be good changes. They'll help more students to go to college. 

Some Expected Changes With the Better FAFSA Application 

New updates on this topic are being released all the time. So at the time of writing, here are some of the expected FAFSA changes you'll see go into effect for the 2023-2024 academic year. 

1. The FAFSA will be shorter

To increase access, the updated FAFSA will have fewer questions and take less time to complete. This should provide a better user experience and help more students and families complete the FAFSA and receive aid. 

2. You'll need an FSA ID to complete the application

To complete the FAFSA, you'll need to create and confirm a new FSA ID. Then each time you log in, you'll need to verify through a multi-factor authentication process. These changes will not only help keep your information secure, but they will also allow people without social security numbers to apply for aid.

3. The Student Aid Index (SAI) will replace the Expected Family Contribution (EFC)

You will see a different measure for your ability to pay for college. The old EFC, which many are familiar with, will be replaced with the new SAI. And unlike the EFC, which cannot be lower than $0, the SAI can be as low as -$1,500.

4. There is a new need analysis formula

There are a few changes in this area. One of them removes the number of family members currently in college from the eligibility calculation. Another adds consideration for your family's makeup, size, and income and will be calculated using Federal Poverty Tables to determine eligibility for Federal Pell Grants.

5. Family members logging into the FAFSA will be assigned roles

When a student begins the FAFSA, they will be guided through identifying any parent(s) or spouse who will need to log in to share financial information. From there, each person will be assigned a role and can only see questions related to their role.

For instance, students will only see the questions they need to answer. They won't have to worry about the other areas of the application. Likewise, parent(s) or a spouse will only see questions related to their role.

These new roles will help simplify the process for everyone who needs to contribute information. 

6. The drug conviction & Selective Service registration questions will be removed

Previously, FAFSA required students to disclose any drug convictions and confirm they'd registered for the Selective Service if needed, which could have affected eligibility for financial aid. 

7. You will be able to list up to 20 colleges 

Previously, students were limited to only listing ten colleges or universities on the application, but now they can list up to 20 schools. 

Our Thoughts on the FAFSA Changes

While some of these changes might sound somewhat worrisome, they are all positive and collectively work together to expand access to financial aid. 

If you're concerned the changes might cause your family to pay more for school or force you to look at different colleges and universities, you should talk directly with some financial aid offices. 

Do not assume you can't afford college because of the sticker price and your fears that you won't get enough Federal financial aid. Most colleges have generous aid programs to help students like you enroll and graduate. Trust us on this one!

You can click this link to learn more about the FAFSA changes and the new Better FAFSA.

FAFSA Resources You Can Bookmark

This article wouldn't be complete without providing you with some additional FAFSA resources. So here are links to some of the most popular articles that have helped many students and families complete their FAFSAs. 

Documents you'll need to fill out the FAFSA

Who is a parent on the FAFSA?

How to shelter assets on the FAFSA

Does the FAFSA need to be repaid? 

Finding Scholarships to Supplement Federal Financial Aid

Now that you know what to expect with this year's FAFSA, it's time to look around and prepare to pick up some scholarship money.

You can do that by logging into your free Appily account to access an extensive and up-to-date list of scholarships. Save those you're interested in, and come back to apply for them later. Just click the button below to get started. It's free and easy.

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