By Emily Rosenberg
By Dylan Pichnarcik
Several major changes are coming to the FAFSA for the 2024-25 academic year that may affect the amount of financial aid students receive.
FAFSA stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid and colleges that distribute federal aid, including Framingham State, require students to complete the form in order to be considered for financial assistance toward their tuition and fees bill.
Due to the changes, the application will be available on a tentative date in December instead of October, when it is typically available.
These changes will be initiated due to the FAFSA Simplification Act passed by Congress in 2020. According to the U.S. Department of Education website, the act significantly overhauls the process of awarding federal aid.
The act changes the needs analysis that determines eligibility for financial aid. A student’s “Expected Family Contribution” that determines a student’s ability to pay for college and their eligibility for Pell Grants will be replaced by the Student Aid Index.
The Student Aid Index removes the number of family members in college from the calculation.
Director of Financial Aid Caitlin Laurie said, “The income and household size will go into a student aid index, and that will determine the eligibility for a Pell grant.”
Laurie said the Student Aid Index is likely to “greatly expand” access to financial aid for most students except in rare situations.
The Financial Aid Office sent out an email to students on Oct. 25 explaining to inform students of the new changes.
Laurie said the new application will be more streamlined. Compared to previous years when the FAFSA had around 100 questions, the new application will only have 30.
In addition, the new FAFSA will be made up of sections to be completed by the applicant's contributors who must all create their own Federal Student Aid (FSA) ID. Contributors include biological or adoptive parents, stepparents, and if students are married, their spouses.
Another significant change alters how the federal government verifies tax information with the IRS. In previous years, applicants were given the option to enter income information manually or to use a data retrieval tool if a federal tax return was filed by the applicant or contributor. Now, applicants and contributors must consent to a direct data transfer from the IRS regardless of if a federal tax return was filed.
Laurie said if a federal tax return was not filed, it indicates important information for the needs analysis as well.
She said a drawback to this change is that if applicants and contributors do not consent to a direct data transfer, the student completing the application will not be considered for federal aid.
Students are not required to add contributors to their FAFSA if they fall under certain categories in which they are deemed financially independent from others or if they have dependents. Other reasons why students may not need to add contributors to their applications is if they are in active military duty or a veteran, are a graduate student, or have gone through the legal emancipation process.
Another change to the form will affect students who list one of their parents as a contributor and their parents are divorced. In previous years, students whose parents were divorced were required to report the income of the parent they lived with the most in the past 12 months. On the new FAFSA form, students will report the income of the parent who provides them with the most financial support.
Laurie said, “It is a huge change, obviously. If the person contributes more to the student financially they are probably making more money, so that could result in a decrease in eligibility.”
Laurie said the Financial Aid Office will be supporting students through these changes in the upcoming months in the form of workshops and support seminars. Students will receive updates through emails.