The new FAFSA will be available by Dec. 31 — what families need to know about the college financial aid form
The new FAFSA will be available by Dec. 31 — what families need to know about the college financial aid form CNBC
Financial Aid for College Students
For many families, financial aid is key when it comes to paying for college. But students must first fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to access any assistance. And this year, the FAFSA has been significantly delayed.
Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
- Goal 4: Quality Education
- Goal 10: Reduced Inequalities
- Goal 17: Partnerships for the Goals
New FAFSA Form
For the 2024-2025 school year, a new, streamlined FAFSA form will be available on or before Dec. 31, 2023, up to nearly three months later than in previous years. The Education Department said it plans to return to an Oct. 1 start date next year.
“The irony is they are changing the FAFSA to make it simpler and easier but in doing that, you’ve created a problem,” said Mary Morris, CEO of Virginia529, one of the largest 529 plans in the country. For families trying to navigate the process, a new formula and the delay are “intimidating and scary and annoying.”
Importance of Filing the FAFSA Early
Despite the delay, it’s still advantageous for students to file the FAFSA as soon as they can, according to Rick Castellano, a spokesperson for Sallie Mae.
The earlier families fill out the form, the better their chances are of receiving aid, since some financial aid is awarded on a first-come, first-served basis, or from programs with limited funds.
“While there may be some hiccups along the way, students and families should do what they need to do to file as soon as possible,” he said.
Changes with the New FAFSA
Not only has the timing changed but the simplified form now also uses a calculation called the “Student Aid Index” to estimate how much a family can afford to pay.
Historically, many factors, not just income, go into how much aid students receive, including the total number of people in the household and the number of children in college, as well as other financial commitments such as a home equity loan or child support payments.
Now, the formula will pull federal tax information directly from the IRS and slim down 108 questions to less than 50.
Going forward, the Department of Education will no longer give families a break for having multiple children in college at the same time, effectively eliminating the “sibling discount.”
At the same time, the new FAFSA will raise the family income threshold, making more students eligible for federal need-based aid.
Preparing for the New FAFSA
For students who feel pressured by having to submit college applications without knowing how much the schools will cost them, the Federal Student Aid Estimator can provide an early estimate of what a student’s federal aid could be after submitting the new form.
To facilitate the student aid calculations, “get your financial house in order,” Virginia529′s Morris advised. Students and families should have their tax forms ready and create a StudentAid.gov account along with a Federal Student Aid ID, which is needed to input and access your information online.
Then, follow Federal Student Aid on social media for upcoming announcements, including an alert when the new FAFSA form is available to complete.
This is also a good time to consider other sources for merit-based aid, Morris added, by searching websites such as Scholarships.com and the College Board.
There are more than 1.7 million private scholarships and fellowships available, often funded by foundations, corporations, and other independent organizations, with a total value of more than $7.4 billion, according to Kantrowitz.
Finally, there are plenty of free resources to help guide families through the updated FAFSA process. “Know that there is assistance out there, and just don’t give up,” Morris said. “It will be worth it in the long run.”
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