What is the FAFSA simplification law?


Whether you are a high school student or a returning college student, complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) can be overwhelming. You have to answer more than 100 questions and make sure everything is correct, so you don’t miss any opportunities for help.

To make the application process easier for students and their families, Congress passed the FAFSA Simplification Act on December 27, 2020. Here is a brief overview of what you can expect from the FAFSA this year, in addition to the changes coming for the 2024-25 academic year.

What is the FAFSA simplification law?

The FAFSA Simplification Act was signed into law by Congress as part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021. This law reduces the number of questions you will need to answer on the form, makes crucial changes to the Higher Education Act 1965 to expand Pell Grant eligibility and remove outdated restrictions to make federal student aid more accessible to all students.

Major improvements include:

  • Reduce the number of questions in the FAFSA by two-thirds, from 108 to just 36, while changing the language in which the questions are written to make them more understandable.
  • Redesigned the entire Federal Student Aid website with a new platform that allows students to import tax return information, as well as personal and parental information to improve accuracy.
  • Maximize the reuse of previously collected data, including documents used to prove homelessness or dependency replacementso that students do not have to collect them every year if their situation has not changed.
  • Expand the living allowance included as part of schools participation feeto reduce food and housing insecurity among students.
  • Repeal limits on the number of years students can receive Direct Federal Subsidized Loans.
  • Expansion Pell Grant Eligibility to students who were previously ineligible due to drug-related convictions or incarceration, as well as changing the way Pell Grant eligibility is calculated.
  • Reinstatement of lifetime Pell Grant eligibility for students whose school closed while they were enrolled, as well as for those who were defrauded by their school.
  • Replace the Expected Family Contribution (EFC) with the Student Aid Index (SAI) and replace it with a new formula to expand access.
  • Removal of the requirement for male students between the ages of 18 and 25 to enroll in the Selective Service System to receive federal student aid.

“While these are huge changes, we anticipate that the FAFSA simplification will be a positive experience for the majority of students and families,” said MorraLee Keller, senior director of strategic programming at the National College Attainment Network ( NCAN).

“There will be certain populations that will be impacted by the changes to the formula related to the calculation of income and assets. But hopefully, in those cases, colleges may be willing to offer help if they stand to lose state or federal grants to replace them,” she adds.

When does the FAFSA simplification law take effect?

The original plan was for the FAFSA Simplification Act to be rolled out by the 2023-24 FAFSA cycle, which opens on October 1, 2022. However, the The Ministry of Education has decided to push back the deadline for a year and implement all changes outlined in this law using a phased approach, spanning the 2021-22 and 2024-25 academic years.

“Redesigning the FAFSA is a major project and not something you can achieve in any given year,” Keller says. “Between getting a new platform and completely overhauling the form and tools to use, there’s a delay to be expected, so it’s best to take an extra year and get it right,” he adds. -she.

Changes to FAFSA 2023-24

The 2023-24 FAFSA, which opens Oct. 1, 2022, will look almost the same as last year, according to Keller.

Some of the changes that will be incorporated into this year’s FAFSA include the following:

  • Male students under the age of 26 are no longer required to enroll in the Selective Service System to receive federal financial aid.
  • Students who have drug-related convictions will not lose their eligibility to receive federal financial aid.
  • Eligible undergraduate students who take out direct subsidized federal loans will be able to continue to receive their subsidized interest beyond the period exceeding 150% of their college program length, which was not previously possible.
  • Prisoners who are currently enrolled in a prison education program will be eligible to receive the Pell Grant.

Additionally, Selective Service registration and drug conviction related questions will be completely removed from the FAFSA in July 2023. will not be respected. will not affect your eligibility for financial assistance — like last year.

Changes to FAFSA 2024-25

All major reviews outlined in the FAFSA Simplification Act will take place during the FAFSA 2024-25 cycle, which opens next year on October 1 and ends on June 30, 2025.

Here are the main things to watch out for:

  • From July 1, 2024, the FAFSA will only have a maximum of 36 questions instead of 108.
  • The form will be available in 11 languages ​​to benefit those who are not native English speakers.
  • Parents of undocumented students will be able to apply for an FSA identity card. This will speed up the processing time for children of undocumented students, as they will be able to submit the form online, instead of having to print, sign and mail their application.
  • The Department will update its entire federal student aid platform, adding tools that will allow students to import tax filing information, as well as their personal and parental information as soon as they start the form. . This will not only reduce the time spent filling out the form, but will also improve the accuracy of the information provided.
  • The Expected Family Contribution (EFC), which determines your financial need based on your household income, family size, and tuition, will be replaced by the Student Aid Index (SAI). There will also be changes to how this component will be calculated.
  • Those who qualify for a dependency waiver due to homelessness or the inability to access their parents’ finances will not have to recertify their dependency status each year unless their circumstances change.
  • Students will be able to see if they are eligible for the Pell Grant using their household income and family size even before completing the FAFSA.
  • The Department of Education will be able to regulate all components of how schools set the cost of attendance, to increase student allowance for living expenses.
  • Students whose schools closed or defrauded them will have their lifetime Pell Grant eligibility restored if they choose to return to school.
  • There will be a new formula for calculating the Student Income Protection Allowance so that more of the student household income remains intact. This will benefit low- and middle-income households by reducing the amount they will have to contribute to tuition fees and increasing student financial aid.

The bottom line

The FAFSA Simplification Act will impact all students, regardless of income and financial situation. In some cases, students will see their financial aid increase significantly, while others will see a decrease in the amount of aid they may be eligible for. If you have any questions about how this might change your situation this year or next, contact your school’s financial aid office, as they can help you calculate the numbers.

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