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FAFSA Changes FAQs
These frequently asked questions provide information and guidance for advocacy organizations, school counselors, and outreach partners on the implementation of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) changes.
Q. Why are things changing?
The FAFSA process and backend systems are undergoing major updates to better support students and families. These changes implement provisions of the amended FUTURE Act and the FAFSA Simplification Act.
Q. What is the Better FAFSA® Better Future campaign?
The Better FAFSA Better Future campaign communicates changes to the FAFSA process and provides information and resources to aid in the adaptation of these changes.
Q. What are the benefits of the FAFSA® changes?
Benefits of the FAFSA changes include
- a more streamlined application process,
- expanded eligibility for federal student aid, and
- a new user experience for the FAFSA form.
Q. How is federal student aid eligibility changing?
Eligibility for federal student aid will be expanded in the following ways:
- Beginning in the 2024–25 award year, the Expected Family Contribution (EFC) will be replaced with the Student Aid Index (SAI).
- The new need analysis formula removes the number of family members in college from the calculation, allows a minimum SAI of –1500, and implements separate eligibility determination criteria for Federal Pell Grants, among many other changes.
- Federal Pell Grant access will be expanded and linked to income, family size, and federal poverty level guidelines, which will allow more students from low-income backgrounds to qualify.
- Federal Pell Grant access will be restored to incarcerated students under specific rules and programs.
Q. Who is a contributor on the FAFSA® form?
Contributor is a new term being introduced on the 2024–25 FAFSA form:
- A contributor refers to anyone who is required to provide a signature on the FAFSA form and to provide consent and approval to have their federal tax information transferred from the IRS directly into the form via direct data exchange.
- A contributor may include the student, the student's spouse, a biological or adoptive parent, and/or the parent's spouse (stepparent).
- Contributors are not responsible for paying for the student's education costs.
- If a contributor is required to provide information on a student's FAFSA form, the student or parent filling out the form will need to request contributor information (name, Social Security number, date of birth, and email address) to invite contributors to complete their section. Contributors will receive an email informing them that they've been identified as a contributor.
- Even if a student's or parent's spouse is not identified as a contributor, the student (or parent) filling out the FAFSA form will be required to provide information about their spouse.
Q. What is changing on the online FAFSA® form?
Students and families will see significant changes to the online FAFSA form for the 2024–25 award year:
- Each contributor, including the student, is required to have their own StudentAid.gov account in order to access the FAFSA form.
- Students will be able to include up to 20 schools on the FAFSA form (double the previous limit).
- The parent wizard on the FAFSA form will offer a series of filtering questions that determine which parent a dependent student will need to invite to be a contributor.
- Students, and any other required contributors, will be able to track their FAFSA status and any required actions they need to take via the My Activity section of their StudentAid.gov account Dashboard.
- The save key has been eliminated from the FAFSA form.
Q. How will changes to the FAFSA® process improve the user experience?
The FAFSA process is undergoing several changes to improve the experience for students and families:
- The FAFSA form is being consumer-tested with prospective first-generation students and families, as well as students and families from low-income backgrounds.
- Students who are homeless, orphans, former foster youth, or have unusual circumstances that prevent them from providing parent information on the FAFSA form, will benefit from simplified questions and processes that more efficiently determine their independent status.
- Students who have their independent student status approved by a financial aid administrator will have their status carry over to subsequent FAFSA forms in future award years.
Q. What is consent and approval to transfer federal tax information?
All contributors on the FAFSA form, including the student, must provide consent and approval to have their federal tax information transferred directly into the form via direct data exchange with the IRS:
- Contributors' federal tax information will be used to determine the student's eligibility for federal student aid.
- Consent and approval for the transfer of federal tax information is mandatory even if the contributor didn't file a tax return.
- If the student or another contributor doesn't provide consent and approval, the student won't be eligible for federal student aid.
Q. Who needs a StudentAid.gov account?
Everyone contributing to the FAFSA form online must have their own StudentAid.gov account:
- Each contributor, including the student, will access their StudentAid.gov account by using their FSA ID (account username and password).
- Parents and other contributors (not including the student) without a Social Security number (SSN) will be able to create a StudentAid.gov account to fill out and sign their section of the student's FAFSA form online.
- Students will need to provide their SSN to create their StudentAid.gov account. However, a student who is a citizen of the Freely Associated States can create a StudentAid.gov account without an SSN.
Q. When will these changes be implemented?
The FAFSA changes will be implemented in phases. Certain changes began in the 2021–22 award year and full implementation of major provisions will occur during the 2024–25 award year.
Q. Where can I learn more and prepare for these changes?
We will continue to provide updated information about the FAFSA changes and implementation guidance. We will also share information, including webinars, via email and social media.
Q. Where can I read through the full legislative texts?
Review the following information:
- FUTURE Act
- FAFSA Simplification Act (Division FF, Title VII of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021)
Federal Student Aid Resources
Federal Student Aid Partner Emails: Subscribe to receive email communications from Federal Student Aid.
Federal Student Aid Outreach YouTube Channel: Watch webinar recordings and other videos for college access professionals.
November 13, 2023