The FAFSA Simplification Act has recently been passed by Congress to streamline the financial aid process for students and families. Among other key changes this legislation will reduce the total number of questions students see when filing the FAFSA, attempts to clarify the questions that will be asked, and will aim to increase Federal Pell Grant eligibility. While in some cases the FAFSA simplification could increase some students’ financial aid eligibility, others may see a decrease in aid. Key changes that can impact the application process and resulting financial aid offers for students are outlined in the FAQs below.
FAFSA simplification changes include the first major redesign of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) process in over 40 years, along with updates to the back end systems that process and store federal student aid application data. The goal is to make applying for federal student aid easier for students. FAFSA simplification implements provisions of the amended Fostering Undergraduate Talent by Unlocking Resources for Education (FUTURE) Act and the FAFSA Simplification Act.
Most of the changes related to FAFSA simplification will begin with the 2024-2025 application. Due to the changes, the 2024-2025 FAFSA will not be available as of the traditional October 1 date. The anticipated launch date of the 2024-25 FAFSA will be in December 2023.
What are the benefits of FAFSA simplification?
The benefits of FAFSA simplification include:
- a more streamlined application process
- expanded eligibility for federal student aid
- reduced barriers for certain student populations (e.g., homeless and unaccompanied youth, incarcerated students, English language learners, and students from low-income backgrounds)
- better user experience for the FAFSA form.
What major changes will FAFSA simplification introduce?
Significant changes to the application process include changes to the FAFSA form, how
students and families complete the application, and the eligibility calculation.
- The FAFSA form will be updated and streamlined to improve access.
- The FAFSA form will be expanded to the 11 most common languages spoken by English learner students and their parents. Language-specific resources and support will also be available from FSA Information Center.
- The form will be consumer-tested with prospective first-generation students and families, as well as students and families from low-income backgrounds.
- The form will include new demographic questions about an applicant’s gender and race/ethnicity.
- Foster, homeless, and unaccompanied youth—as well as applicants who cannot provide parental information—will be able to complete the form with a provisional independent student determination and receive a calculated Student Aid Index (SAI). Students who have their independent student status approved by a financial aid administrator will also be eligible for a renewal of their dependency status in subsequent years if their circumstances remain unchanged.
- Rather than importing their tax information using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool, applicants will consent to providing their Federal Tax Information (FTI) via a direct data share with the IRS. This enhanced data sharing simplifies the applicant’s experience.
- Eligibility for federal student aid will be expanded in the following ways:
- Selective Service and drug conviction questions will be eliminated to reduce applicant barriers.
- New methodology will be introduced to calculate and determine applicant eligibility. The Expected Family Contribution (EFC) will be replaced with the Student Aid Index (SAI).
- The new need-analysis formula allows for a negative SAI calculation and implements separate eligibility criteria for Federal Pell Grants.
- Federal Pell Grant access will be expanded and linked to family size and federal poverty levels, which will allow more students and families from low-income backgrounds to qualify.
- Federal Pell Grant access will be restored to incarcerated students under specific rules and programs.
Expanding access to federal aid
The FAFSA Simplification Act expands the Federal Pell Grant to more students and
links eligibility to family size and the federal poverty level. Some applicants will be able
to determine Pell Grant eligibility prior to enrolling in college based on their family size,
household income, and state’s poverty standards.
What will stay the same?
• Applicants will provide income, asset, and family information on the Free
Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®). Many data elements will
automatically populate on the application from either their or their parents’
federal income tax return.
• The need analysis formula will remain: cost of attendance (COA) minus
Student Aid Index (SAI) and other financial assistance equals eligibility for
need-based financial aid.
Replacing the Expected Family Contribution (EFC) with the Student Aid Index (SAI)
Students and families will see a different measure of their ability to pay for college and
will also experience a change in the methodology used to determine aid. The new
formula removes the number of family members in college from the calculation and
allows a minimum SAI of negative $1,500 to give financial aid administrators more
insight when making determinations for students with especially challenging situations.
When will FAFSA simplication be implemented?
FAFSA simplification will be implemented in phases. Certain changes began in the 2021–2022 Award Year and full implementation of major provisions will occur during the 2024–2025 Award Year.
What are Contributors on the FAFSA 2024-25?
Contributor is a new term introduced on the 2024-25 FAFSA form. It refers to anyone asked to provide information on a student’s FAFSA form, i.e., the student, the student’s spouse, a biological or adopted parent, or the parent’s spouse (stepparent).A Contributor is NOT a grandparent, foster parents, legal guardian, brother or sister, aunt or uncle, even if they helped provide for or raise the student. A Contributor on the FAFSA form doesn’t mean they are financially responsible for the student’s education costs.
How are Contributors determined?The student’s or parent’s answers will determine which contributors (if any) will be required to provide information.
What do Contributors need to provide?These contributors will be invited to complete their portion of the FAFSA form by entering their name, date of birth, Social Security number, and email address. They must also provide personal and financial information in their own sections of the FAFSA form.
What are the steps Contributors must follow?
1. Contributor receives an email informing them that they’ve been identified as a contributor.
2. Contributor creates a StudentAid.gov account if they don’t already have one.
3. Contributor logs in to account using their FSA ID account username and password.
4. Contributor reviews information about completing their section of the FAFSA form.
5. Contributor provides the required information on the student’s FAFSA form.
What if I am a Contributor and don’t want to provide my information in my student’s FAFSA?Being a contributor does NOT implicate financial responsibility. However, if a required contributor refuses to provide their information, it will result in an incomplete FAFSA form, and the student will become ineligible for federal student aid.
What if my parents are divorced? Who is the contributor to my FAFSA?Students that live with a single/divorced/widowed parent and receive most financial support from that parent, will report only one parent on the FAFSA. The parent included in the FAFSA as a contributor must be the parent that provides the greater portion of the student’s financial support. If that primary parent is remarried, the income of that parent’s spouse (stepparent) will also be required.
Why does the FAFSA 2024-25 require consent from students and contributors?According to the Future Act, all students and contributors must provide consent to the following:
- Have their federal tax information transferred directly into the FAFSA® form via direct data exchange with the IRS;
- Have their federal tax information used to determine the student’s eligibility for federal student aid; and
- Allow the U.S. Department of Education to share its federal tax information with postsecondary institutions and state higher education agencies for use in awarding and administering financial aid.
Important: Even if students or contributors don’t have a Social Security number, didn’t file taxes, or filed taxes outside of the U.S., they still need to provide consent.
What if I don’t want to provide consent as a student or a required contributor?
- If a student or required contributor doesn’t provide consent to have their federal tax information transferred into the FAFSA® form, the student will not be eligible for federal student aid—even if they manually enter tax information into the FAFSA form.
- Information about how federal tax information will be used and the consequences of not providing consent will be included on the FAFSA form.
- Legal parents must provide consent to transfer federal tax information, even if one of the parents didn’t file or had no income. If parents fail to provide consent, the student won’t be eligible to receive federal student aid.
What is Consent and Why do I have to Provide it when completing the FAFSA 2024-25?
The Future Act requires that every contributor on the FAFSA provide consent to share their taxes information in the application so that the IRS can share this information with Federal Student Aid (FSA). All parties whose Federal Tax Information (FTI) is included on a student’s FAFSA form must consent annually.
The consent will be required when a student submits a FAFSA, chooses Income-Driven Repayment (IDR) when starting loan repayment, or submits the Total and Permanent Disability discharge (TPD) within the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs for totally and permanently disabled students.
The consent is necessary not only for the Department of Education to request federal tax information from the IRS but also to use that FTI in the federal student aid application process, as well as do other things such as redisclose that information to certain eligible entities, such as higher education institutions.
What happens if I, as a student, or a spouse or parent, don’t want to provide consent on the FAFSA?
If a student, spouse, or parent doesn’t provide consent on the FAFSA, the Student Aid Index (SAI) will not be calculated, and the student will not be eligible for any federal aid.
What if I had a low income and was not required to file taxes?
According to the IRS tax year 2022, these are the thresholds by filing status. If an independent student (and spouse, if married), or a parent of a dependent student, were not required to file a federal income tax return for 2022, then the student will automatically receive a Student Aid Index (SAI) equal to –1500. They still need to provide consent when submitting the FAFSA, so the IRS can confirm to Federal Student Aid (FSA) the student, parents, and spouse didn’t file taxes.
Will students still be able to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool?
No. Starting FAFSA 2024-25, the DRT will no longer exist. After the student, spouse, and/or parent provides consent to the Direct Data Exchange (DDX), the Federal Tax Information (FTI) will be linked to the application contributor. Federal Student Aid (FSA) will now directly transfer Federal Tax Information (FTI) from the IRS into the FAFSA form as long as the user has provided FSA with the consent to do so.
All users identified as required contributors on a particular FAFSA form will be prompted to provide consent for the IRS to use their Federal Tax Information (FTI). This consent is required to retrieve FTI from the IRS to calculate the student’s aid eligibility. If any party to the FAFSA form does not provide consent, submission of the form will still be allowed. However, a Student Aid Index (SAI), which replaces the Expected Family Contribution (EFC), will not be calculated.
Will non-custodial parents be contributors if they have not claimed the child on their taxes?
Starting with the Simplified FAFSA, students will determine which parent to report based on which one provides the most financial support. It is ok if the parent or parents reported do not claim the student on their taxes. The reported parents will provide consent to transfer their taxes data even if they do not claim the student on their taxes.
If parents that are remarried provide more support to the child than a biological parent, does the stepparent have to provide their taxes information?
Yes. If the parent providing more financial support is remarried, the stepparent’s tax information is required.
What if my parent or stepparent does not want to provide their tax information for my FAFSA?
Our Counselors can offer to talk directly with the parent or stepparent to explain why that information is needed and answer any questions, which sometimes puts them at ease about how their sensitive info will be used. However, we cannot provide tax advice.
How do I report small business or farm value as assets on the FAFSA?
Independent students or parents are the best sources for this estimate; they can also consult their accountant or other financial professional if they have access to one to estimate the amounts to report.
I – and/or my parents or spouse – amended our taxes. Will the Federal Tax Information (FTI) transfer the amended tax information?
Yes. Starting 2024-25, when the student, spouse, parent, and/or stepparent provide consent, the IRS’s Federal Tax Information (FTI) will include the information from an amended tax return.
Can I self-report my income on FAFSA?
After you provide consent on the FAFSA, if the IRS cannot transfer your Federal Tax Information (FTI) to your FAFSA application, the application will allow you to self-report it. Self-reporting one’s tax information on the FAFSA does not override the requirement for each required contributor to provide consent on the FAFSA form. So two pieces – they need to provide consent, and we need to have their tax information, either directly from the IRS or self-reported manually on the FAFSA form.
If a FAFSA contributor is a non-filer and has zero wages, do they have to provide consent?
Any individual who is a contributor to the FAFSA application must provide consent.
What happens if a contributor provides consent but doesn’t sign the application?
Starting 2024-25, there will be only two options for filing a FAFSA form: electronically, through studentaid.gov, or the option to file on paper which will also be available. However, once an application is started online, all parties must complete it online. If a signature is missing, the parent or the contributor that needs to complete their section and/or sign the application must obtain an FSA ID and complete their section.
There is no option to print a signature page any longer. For this reason, financial aid administrators will not be able to submit complete FAFSA forms because of the consent provision that all contributors must provide and sign.
Students and parents will be required to have an FSA ID to complete the FAFSA application online. If they choose to mail a paper FAFSA, both will need to provide consent on the paper FAFSA, and both will need to provide wet signatures and mail the application to the Department of Education address on the paper application. This method is not recommended due to complexity and increased processing time.
In what situations will there be a match with IRS, but IRS wouldn’t provide information?
Fraud or identity theft are the most likely reasons for the IRS not providing tax information to the applicant or the contributor. If the contributor has been flagged by the IRS, possibly due to identity theft or a breach of information, then the IRS response code will be IRS unable to provide information.
If a parent does not want to or refuses to create an FSA ID, is there an alternative for that parent to provide consent, such as mailing a wet signed consent page?
There is no longer a separate signature page, and there won’t be a paper consent signature option. If a parent refuses to create an FSA ID then the FAFSA will need to be completed via the paper application and contain wet signatures from all contributors, including the parents, who affirm their consent. The application will then need to be mailed to Federal Student Aid processors. This method is not recommended due to complexity and increased processing time.
FSA ID - Needed For Student and Contributors
All students and contributors must create a StudentAid.gov account to complete the FAFSA form online. Students and contributors will use their FSA ID account username and password to log in to their accounts. Even if a parent or spouse contributor doesn’t have a Social Security number, they can still get an FSA ID using their ITIN to fill out their portion of the student’s FAFSA form online.
Do parents and students need to wait until FAFSA 2024-25 opens in December to create an FSA ID?
No. The FSA ID process is not changing. It’s even better that parents and students can create the FSA ID and have it ready anytime before the FAFSA application starts.
How do I or other contributors create an FSA ID?
To create an FSA ID, you’ll need your Social Security number (SSN). Other information required is full name and date of birth. You’ll also need to create a memorable username and password and complete challenge questions and answers to retrieve your account information if you forget it. You’ll be required to provide your email address or mobile phone number when you make your FSA ID. Providing a mobile phone number and/or email address that you have access to will make it easier to log in to ED online systems and allow you to verify your FSA ID before using it on the FAFSA and additional account recovery options.
This Federal Student Aid video can help create a step-by-step FSA ID.
2024-2025 Pell Grant eligibility determination in three steps
- Maximum Pell Grant – Applicants may qualify for a Maximum Pell Grant based on family size, adjusted gross income (AGI), and poverty guidelines. Students qualifying for a Maximum Pell Grant will have an SAI between negative $1,500 and $0.
- Student Aid Index (SAI) – Applicants who do not qualify for a Maximum Pell Grant may still qualify if their calculated SAI is less than the maximum Pell Grant award for the award year. The applicant’s Pell Grant award for full-time enrollment will be equal to the maximum Pell Grant for the award year minus SAI. The Pell Grant will be adjusted if the applicant enrolls less than full time, or if the applicant’s COA is less than the calculated Pell Grant award.
- Minimum Pell Grant – Applicants whose SAI is greater than the
maximum Pell Grant award for the award year may still qualify for aPell Grant, based on family size, AGI, and poverty guidelines.
How will schools be impacted?
New requirements and calculations will modify the roles and responsibilities for schools.
Notable changes include:
- calculation of the Student Aid Index (SAI)
- new cost of attendance (COA) definitions
- updates to consumer information that must be publicly available to applicants and families
- simplified verification selection criteria
- provisions for Financial Aid Administrators to exercise professional judgment in
addressing an applicant’s special circumstances that may impact their eligibility
for federal student aid.
Last Updated: 11/09/2023 18:31