The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the key to unlocking financial aid for college. But this year, the FAFSA has undergone major changes that may affect millions of students and families.
The FAFSA for the 2024-25 academic year was supposed to be available on Oct. 1, 2023, as usual. However, due to the implementation of the FAFSA Simplification Act, which was signed into law in 2020, the launch was delayed until Dec. 31, 2023.
The FAFSA Simplification Act aims to make the FAFSA easier to complete, reduce the number of questions, and increase the eligibility for federal grants and loans. According to the U.S. Department of Education, the new FAFSA will help 610,000 more students from low-income backgrounds receive Pell Grants.
However, the transition to the new FAFSA has not been smooth. The Department of Education announced that the FAFSA rollout has run into some problems, such as site maintenance, waiting rooms, and missing links to state aid applications.
These issues have caused frustration and confusion among students and families who are trying to apply for financial aid as soon as possible. Some experts have warned that the delays and glitches could result in lower FAFSA completion and college enrollment rates, especially for students from the lowest income backgrounds.
The Department of Education said it is working to resolve the minor issues and improve the user experience for the FAFSA applicants. It also advised students and families to be patient and not rush to fill out the form, as the federal deadline is June 30, 2025, and the results will not be transmitted to schools until later in January.
However, some states and colleges have their own deadlines for financial aid, which may be earlier than the federal one. Therefore, it is important for students and families to check the deadlines for their state and schools of interest at StudentAid.gov/fafsa-deadlines.
Additionally, students and families should be aware of the following changes and tips for the new FAFSA:
- Anyone who provides information on the FAFSA will be considered a contributor, such as the student, the parent, the student’s spouse, or the parent’s spouse.
- Contributors will be able to create a StudentAid.gov account and transfer their tax information automatically from the IRS into the FAFSA form.
- The FAFSA will be available in 11 common languages and will have only 36 questions, compared to 108 in the previous version.
- The FAFSA will not include links to state aid applications this year, so students and families in Iowa, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Vermont will need to apply for state aid separately through their state agencies.
- The FAFSA will use new formulas to determine the expected family contribution (EFC) and the Pell Grant eligibility, which may change the amount of aid that some students receive.
The new FAFSA is expected to benefit many students and families in the long run, but it may also pose some challenges in the short term. Therefore, it is crucial for students and families to stay informed, prepared, and proactive in applying for financial aid for college.