The FAFSA Simplification Act and you!
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is seeing some big changes for the 2024-2025 aid year! The US Congress passes the FAFSA Simplification Act as one of the biggest overhauls of the federal student aid systems and processing in the FAFSA's history. These changes impact the FAFSA form itself alongside the need analysis that determines federal aid eligibility, new terminology, and many of the policies and procedures schools that participate in federal student aid programs (like UT Tyler!) use. Luckily for student and families, many of these changes are designed to make the FAFSA easier and quicker to complete than ever before, along with increasing the amount of federal student aid eligibility for many students.
With this many changes, the Department of Education is working to make sure everything is working for this first year of the new FAFSA, and so it will take longer for the 2024-25 FAFSA to open. While historically the FAFSA has opened on October 1st of each year, this year the Department of Education expects to open the 2024-25 FAFSA sometime in December 2023 (the exact date will be posted here once it is announced). The Department of Education doesn't expect this to be the new standard, but instead just a delay in the 2024-25 FAFSA opening.
The FAFSA simplification act has numerous benefits, including an easier application process with a better experience for students and parents, greater eligibility for federal student aid, and less barriers for at-risk student populations. Some of the larger changes are detailed below:
The FAFSA is shorter and more user-friendly.
The 2024-25 FAFSA has been significantly shortened, from 108 questions in the 2023-24 FAFSA to only 46 in the 2024-25 FAFSA. The FAFSA on the Web has also been made more dynamic, meaning many students won't see all 46 questions, only those that are relevant to them, and the streamlined format will be simpler and less daunting for students and their families than past FAFSAs.
- Applicants will be required to use the IRS Direct Date Exchange.
- On previous FAFSA, users had the option to either enter their tax information manually or use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool, with many applicants choosing the latter. Beginning with the 2024-25 FAFSA, all people on the FAFSA will be required to use the IRS Direct Date Exchange to share tax information or confirm non-filing status. This change makes it easier and quicker to complete the FAFSA and significantly reduces the number of questions applicants need to answer.
- All contributors must provide financial information.
- A new term being introduced in the 2024-25 FAFSA is a "contributor," which refers to any person who must provide information on a student's FAFSA form, such as parents, step-parents, or a spouse. A student's early answers on the FAFSA will determine which contributors, if any, need to provide information. Applicable contributors will receive an email notifying them that they've been identified as an indicator and need to login to the FAFSA using their own FSA ID (NOT the student's) and provide the required information.
- Being a contributor does not mean that they are responsible for the student's educational costs, but it does mean that the contributor must provide information to the FAFSA. If they do not, the student's application will be incomplete and they will not be eligible for any federal student aid.
- The Expected Family Contribution (EFC) is becoming the Student Aid Index (SAI).
- Many students and families who have completed a FAFSA before may be familiar with the Expected Family Contribution, or EFC, which is how the FAFSA calculated a student's aid eligibility. Beginning with the 2024-25 FAFSA, the EFC is being replaced with the Student Aid Index (SAI), which a more accurate description of a student's aid eligibility and, unlike the EFC, can be a negative number as low as -1,500.
- Please note that, like the EFC, a lower SAI typically indicates greater student aid eligibility when it comes to need-based aid. Thus, a negative SAI is not a bad thing for the student, but rather indicates exceptional student need beyond simply having a 0 in that field.
- The number of family members in college will not be used to calculate SAI.
- In past FAFSAs, the FAFSA took the number of household members in college into account when calculating the EFC, with that number being divided proportionally to determine federal aid eligibility. Beginning with the 2024-25 FAFSA however, while the application will still ask how many household members are in college, the answer to that question will not be calculated into the SAI. As such, students, and particularly students with siblings in college, may see a change in their federal aid eligibility.
- Some students will be automatically eligible for a Pell Grant.
- Beginning with the 2024-25 FAFSA, families making less than 175% and single parent families making less than 225% of the federal poverty level will have their students automatically receive the maximum Federal Pell Grant award amount. Minimum Pell Grant awards will be guaranteed to students from households (depending on household structure) below 275%, 325%, 350%, or 400% of the poverty level. Pell Grant awards between the maximum and minimum amounts will be determined by a student's SAI.
- In cases of divorce or separation, the parent responsible for submitting the FAFSA
- For dependent students, the FAFSA previously required financial information from the parent(s) the student had lived with the most in the previous 12 months. Beginning with the 2024-25 FAFSA, financial information will instead be required from the parent(s) who provided the most financial support to the student during that time.
- Family farms and small business must be reported as assets.
- Two additional family assets can now be required to be reported beginning with the 2024-25 FAFSA. When required, families must report the value of their small business or family farm. Should the family farm include the principal residence of the household, application will need to determine the total net value of all farm assets and subtract the net value of their principal residence to determine the final value of their farm assets.
What's not different?
While the FAFSA is receiving updates and the aid eligibility calculations are being revised, many aid-related matters will not change, including the following:
- The general types of aid available to UT Tyler students and their federal student loan limits will not change.
- The FAFSA will still be required for consideration for federal and state financial aid every year.
- The dependency status questions that determine whether a student's parent(s) must complete the FAFSA are the same.
- The FAFSA still requires tax information from the prior-prior year, meaning that for the 2024-25 FAFSA you will report your 2022 income. Families that had significant reductions in their income can consider submitting a Special Circumstances Request.
- UT Tyler admission application deadlines are not changing.
- The questions regarding an applicant's gender, race, and ethnicity will remain on the FAFSA. These have no effect on a student's financial aid eligibility and are solely included for statistical purposes and data collection by the Department of Education. In fact, UT Tyler never even receives this date from the FAFSA.