Jan 2, 2024 - Economy

What to know about the simplified FAFSA

Illustration of a graduation cap but the tassel is a ladder.

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

A new application for federal student aid launched for the 2024-25 school year.

Why it matters: The streamlined form, which expands aid eligibility, is the result of a congressional order to simplify and redesign the FAFSA.

  • Updates to aid calculations will expand Pell Grant eligibility to 610,000 new students from low-income backgrounds, according to the Department of Education.

What are the changes?

  • Users can now skip as many as 26 questions out of 46, according to Inside Higher Ed, depending on individual circumstances. This is down from 103 in the previous version of the form.
  • On the low end, they'll answer as few as 18, which could take less than 10 minutes, per the Education Department.
  • Applicants will be asked the number of family members in college on the form, but it won't be used in eligibility calculations.

How is aid determined?

  • The formula for calculating aid is: Cost of Attendance – Student Aid Index (SAI) – Other Financial Assistance = Financial Need.
  • The SAI replaces the Expected Family Contribution, which used to be part of the process.

Federal Pell Grant eligibility is determined in three steps:

  1. Maximum Federal Pell Grant: students with an SAI between -1500 and 0 qualify.
  2. If calculated SAI is less than the max federal grant award, applicants may still qualify.
  3. Minimum Pell Grant: applicants whose SAI is greater than the max award may qualify based on family size, household income, and poverty guidelines.

Why isn't the page working for me?

  • The new FAFSA is under a soft launch, and the site will be paused for maintenance and technical updates sporadically.
  • "If your form is unavailable when you or your family members try to access it, please try again later," the Federal Student Aid website said.

What information do I need?

  • Login information: username and password
  • Personal information: parent or spouse contributor name, date of birth, Social Security number, and email address
  • Financial information: income and asset information

When is the deadline?

  • The deadline for the 2024-25 FAFSA is June 30, 2025.
  • The Department of Education will send eligibility information to schools in late January.

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