If your teen is graduating high school in 2024, this is for you! The FAFSA is undergoing a major overhaul this year, pushing the open date for this important tool for financial aid out from its normal October 1st open date, to December 1st this year. It will return to October 1st, as usual, in 2024.
TIP: We recommend setting a reminder on your calendars now for the December 1st FAFSA release.
What is the FAFSA? FAFSA stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Any student planning to borrow money for college with federal student or parent loans, or hoping to receive a PELL Grant must fill out the FAFSA. Many colleges also require the FAFSA for consideration for scholarships at their school.
With the updated FAFSA, the term EFC, or Estimated Family Contribution, has been replaced with a new acronym, SAI, or Student Aid Index. Changes to previous calculations are expected to increase the number of PELL-eligible low-income families whose students were previously ineligible for PELL Grants. Meanwhile, middle-income families with 2 or more children in college may be negatively impacted, as the legislation did away with the EFC split between all college students in a single family. Parents and Students can optionally run the numbers to find their SAI for PELL Eligibility now using the latest draft of the Student Aid Index and PELL Eligibility Guide. The updated FAFSA app will continue to connect directly to the IRS database to fill in much of the updated form, leaving things like current assets and bank balances to be updated by parents and students.
The FAFSA process will also require families to formally approve the use of Federal Tax Information (FTI) to be eligible for federal financial aid. The Department of Education said the FAFSA FTI Approval is “formal approval granted by an applicant and any applicable contributors for a given FAFSA cycle to retrieve and use FTI to determine an applicant’s federal financial aid eligibility.” Failure to approve the use of FTI by all contributors to the FAFSA will result in the student being ineligible for federal financial aid. Additionally, “FTI approval permits the redisclosure of FTI by the Department to an eligible institution; state higher education agency; or a designated scholarship organization for the application, award, and administration of student aid programs. An applicant and contributor (if applicable) must provide approval once each year.“1
1 A critical action you must take for your FAFSA to be processed by Catherine Mueller, Mapping Your Future