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Experts explain what to expect from the new and improved FAFSA

This year, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) announced major changes that will affect the application’s structure, user experience and timeline. Though this retooling will ultimately make the FAFSA simpler for filers (typically students and guardians), knowing the basic application updates will be helpful for everyone in the higher education space. We recently sat down with Jenn Satalino of The College Place Oregon to learn more about what to expect from the new FAFSA.

 

Family income is now the primary driver of Pell Grant eligibility

While the previous FAFSA incorporated family assets into a student’s Federal Pell Grant eligibility, the new formula is based solely on income. Additionally, the once-crucial expected family contribution (EFC) will be replaced by the new student aid index (SAI). Through both changes, the U.S. Department of Education aims to simplify processes and naming conventions that were potentially misleading. (For example, EFC was often seen as the amount that families were expected to pay for a student’s schooling, when in fact it was a representative number used to assess a family’s financial need.[i]) The bottom line? More students will be eligible for federal grant money, which is always a good thing.

 

Start FAFSA account and password setup early this summer

In the new FAFSA, all students and guardians will be required to create a new, unique FSA ID login. The FSA ID replaces the old Federal Student Aid PIN. Satalino recommends that each student and guardian (particularly those who will be filing for the first time this fall) spend some time during the summer setting up email accounts that they plan to use for the college application and financial aid processes, as they will be necessary for setting up new FSA IDs. Students who want to get a head start on their FAFSA are encouraged to establish their FSA ID before the FAFSA opens, ensuring that all passwords are kept in a secure, confidential location. Read more about the new FSA ID.

 

New FAFSA launches in December, speeding up application deadlines

For 2023 only, the FAFSA will be open in December, rather than October. This one-time change is to support the time needed by the U.S. Department of Education needs to re-engineer the application and website. By 2024, the FAFSA will return to its typical opening date in October. For students, families and community-based organizations like College Possible, this year’s December opening date means that thorough and timely preparation will be key.

 

Family involvement will play a large role in the new FAFSA

A key change to the FAFSA means that guardians will be required to complete and sign their own distinct portion of the application. This means that students can no longer input financial information on their guardians’ behalf. Satalino noted that collaboration and proactive engagement with families will be crucial.  “In situations like this, the support of a College Possible high school coach is more important than ever,” shares Margarita Gutierrez Lemus, College Possible Oregon senior program director. “Students will be under a tighter deadline than usual to complete one of the most important steps in their college process — financial aid. We’re excited to jump into action and help students get the best financial aid package possible.”

 

Give yourself and others grace!

“I’ve been working in the college access and financial aid space since 1989, and I’ll still be in the same boat as those filing for the first time,” said Satalino. “Let’s give ourselves some grace through this transition year.” And to all students and families who might be experiencing any apprehension about the upcoming FAFSA changes, know that the entire College Possible community is here to support you!

 

Recommended resources and further reading

[i] https://www.kiplinger.com/personal-finance/credit-debt/loans/student-loans/602186/fafsa-application-changes-are-coming

[ii] https://www.businessinsider.com/personal-finance/fafsa-options-for-non-english-speakers-eligible-noncitizens#:~:text=You%20can%20find%20information%20about,.assistance%40ed.gov.

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