3 Big Changes to the FAFSA, and What They Mean for Families


Is there anything that hasn’t been impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic?

From the way we go to work to the way students learn, it’s been a game-changer. It should be no surprise then, that changes are coming to the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) that is used to determine financial aid eligibility each year.

While the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES Act) made policy changes for higher education, the recent Consolidated Appropriations Act (CAA), 2021 expands on those provisions in ways that will change the FAFSA application.

Please note that these changes were set to appear on the 2022 FAFSA application, but have been delayed until 2023, and will affect the 2024-2025 academic year. There is time to plan and adjust, so speak to an advisor to discuss your options.

While there are a multitude of new changes to the FAFSA, we are going to take a look at three of the biggest changes and what they’ll mean for students and families.

The FAFSA Application Gets Downsized

While the cost of college keeps getting bigger, the FAFSA form itself is actually about to shrink. In welcome news to anyone who’s ever answered the never-ending questions on the current FAFSA, the application will be reduced from over 100 questions to only 36 questions. The move is designed to encourage more families to fill out this notoriously tedious, yet incredibly important, form.

In fact, the number of high school students that completed the FAFSA by January 2021 was down by over 10% from the year before, according to The National College Attainment Network. While there are a few reasons for the decline, the difficulty of filling out the FAFSA was definitely a contributing factor.

What does this mean for families and students? Hopefully, one less barrier to filling out the FAFSA application. Without a FAFSA on file, there is zero chance for financial aid. Simplifying the form is a step in the right direction for families and students.

The EFC Gets a New Name…Yet Remains Largely the Same

One of the most obvious changes in the financial aid world is that the all-important EFC (Expected Family Contribution) is getting a new name. While it’s meaning stays largely the same, the EFC will soon become known as the SAI (Student Aid Index), which is a much more accurate name for it.

The EFC is, in fact, an index number used to identify a family’s eligibility level for financial aid. It is not the actual cost a student will be paying for college. But, with a name like “Expected Family Contribution,” it’s easy to see why there was confusion.

Changing the name to SAI, doesn’t change what it IS. But, it does make it a little easier to understand. According to the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA) website, “The SAI will be used to calculate need for need-based aid programs — not including the Pell Grant — such as the Federal Direct Subsidized Loan program, Federal Work-Study (FWS) program, the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG) program, and some state aid and institutional aid.”

The Multiple Children in College Discount Eliminated

In a less popular move, the discount that families can take for having multiple children in college at the same time will disappear. Currently, there can be a potentially significant benefit when a family has more than one child in college at the same time. In fact, this is a fairly common situation as many families have multiples (twins, triplets) or children born less than 4 years apart. While the revised FAFSA will still take into account the overall size of the family, it will no longer offer a discount for children in college simultaneously.

This change has been met with some significant opposition. So, we will be tracking it to see how it plays out. For now, families who will have multiple children in college simultaneously after 2023 should be prepared for the possibility of some reduced aid eligibility.

To make sure that you are prepared for FAFSA changes and that you’re making the appropriate funding decisions to make college more attainable and affordable for your family, reach out to our experts at 610-422-3530 to start  your college planning journey today.


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