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Major updates to the 2024-25 FAFSA: Streamlining and simplifying the financial aid process

Major updates to the 2024-25 FAFSA: Streamlining and simplifying the financial aid process

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is undergoing significant changes for the 2024-25 academic year.

These modifications, stemming from the Consolidated Appropriations Act and the FAFSA Simplification Act, aim to streamline the application process and expand access to federal student aid.

So, what to expect and how to navigate these changes?

Delayed opening and simplified process

Opening date shift

The FAFSA for the 2024-25 award year will open in December 2023, a shift from the traditional October 1st opening.

This delay is to accommodate the new system's implementation.

Simplified application

The FAFSA form will see a reduction in the number of questions, dropping — from over 100 to fewer than 40.

This change is designed to lower barriers for families completing the application.

Key form changes

Removed questions

Several questions have been eliminated, including those about housing choices, untaxed income not on IRS tax returns, interest in Federal Work-Study, and more.

Updated contributor requirements

The new FAFSA will be more student-driven, with the student's responses determining the required contributors, which may include parents, stepparents, or spouses.

Parental info and income reporting

New criteria for parental reporting

For divorced or separated parents, the parent providing the most financial support will be the one whose information is required, regardless of the student's living situation.

Inclusion of business and farm assets

Parents who own businesses or farms will now need to report their value, impacting the financial aid calculation.
 

IRS Data Retrieval Tool (IRS DRT) enhancements

Simplifying tax data transfer

The IRS DRT is a pivotal feature in the FAFSA process, designed to electronically import your federal tax return details directly into your FAFSA form.

Advantages of using IRS DRT:

  • Ease of Use: Simply transfer information with the click of a button.
  • Speed: Quickly retrieve your tax data for immediate use.
  • Accuracy: Ensure precise and correct entry of your tax information.

How to use IRS DRT

  1. Accessing the Tool. Log into your existing FAFSA form or initiate a new application at fafsa.gov. In the financial section, eligible users will find the “Proceed to the IRS” option.
  2. Initiating the Transfer. Click on “Proceed to the IRS” and use your FSA ID to access the IRS website. Accurately input your details as they appear on your federal tax return and click “Submit”.
  3. Completing the Transfer. Opt to transfer your tax information into the FAFSA form by checking the relevant box and selecting “Transfer Now”. Confirmation of a successful transfer is indicated by “Transferred from the IRS” displayed on your FAFSA form.
  4. Finalizing Your FAFSA Submission. For security purposes, the tax data will not be visible on the IRS or FAFSA websites.

This enhanced IRS DRT feature is a significant step towards making the FAFSA application process more efficient and user-friendly, ensuring that students and families can easily and accurately complete their financial aid applications.

Impact on students and families

Student Aid Index (SAI)

New Measurement of Financial Capability: The SAI, replacing the Expected Family Contribution (EFC), offers a more nuanced assessment of a family's financial capacity to contribute to college expenses.
 

Reflects Broader Financial Picture: This change aims to provide a more accurate representation of a family's financial situation, potentially affecting the amount of aid for which a student is eligible.

Pell grant eligibility expansion

Link to Family Size and Poverty Level: Pell Grant eligibility will now be more closely tied to the family's size and their position relative to the federal poverty level.

Broader Access to Grants: This adjustment is expected to make Pell Grants accessible to a wider range of students, particularly benefiting those from lower-income families.

Removal of sibling discount

Change in Aid Calculation: The elimination of the sibling discount means the number of siblings a student has in college will no longer reduce the family's expected contribution.

Potential Increase in Individual Contributions: This could result in higher expected family contributions for families with multiple children in college, affecting the overall financial aid package.

Conclusion

The 2024-25 FAFSA changes represent a significant shift in the federal student aid application process.

With a focus on simplification and expanded access, these changes are poised to make the financial aid process more accessible and less daunting for students and families across the United States.

Ines Zemelman, EA
Founder of TFX